It is nearly a year since the tragedy in Lampedusa where hundreds of migrants died trying to make their way to Europe. Unfortunately, migrant deaths in the Mediterranean continue and seem to be increasing. The Guardian reported that more than 2,900 people have drowned or gone missing this year while attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. This is a huge increase compared to a reported 700 deaths in 2013.
Two weeks ago, a boat on its way to Italy sank near Malta. Approximately 500 migrants (including 100 children) died. This boat was allegedly intentionally sunk by smugglers due to a dispute over the migrants’ refusal to move to smaller boats. Only 11 migrants survived this incident and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called it a “mass murder”. On the very same day a boat containing 200 migrants sank off the coast of Libya.
To say that these attempts by migrants to “illegally” enter Europe is based on mere economic gain is too simplified. People are travelling in this precarious way due to various ongoing conflicts, human rights abuses and economic instability in a range of countries in Africa and the Middle East (e.g. Sudan, Libya, Egypt, Palestine, and Syria). So, how should authorities deal with this, often fatal, method of migration? I argue that one way is to remove the dependence of migrants on smugglers. This can be done by making access to Europe less restrictive and increasing the number of legal methods of migration, especially for those fleeing conflict or persecution.