A look at the migration trends behind the latest shipwreck off Greece

ROME (AP) — Wednesday’s deadly shipwreck off southern Greece, involving a large boat carrying migrants that capsized after apparently fending off offers of help, is just the latest case of smugglers packing up ships filled with desperate people willing to risk their lives to reach mainland Europe.

The journey from Libya or Tunisia across the central Mediterranean and north to Europe is the deadliest migration route in the world, according to the UN’s International Organization for Migration.

Here is an overview of the situation in the Mediterranean and some of the details of the latest tragedy:


The Greek coastguard, navy and merchant ships and planes have launched an extensive search and rescue operation after the overcrowded fishing boat capsized and sank early Wednesday about 75 kilometers (45 miles) to the southwest of the southern peninsula of the Peloponnese.

So far, 79 bodies have been recovered and 104 people have been rescued. The number of people missing was unclear, but some initial reports suggested hundreds may have been on board. If confirmed, the wreck could become the deadliest so far this year.


The coastguard said the boat had rejected several offers of assistance from coastguards and merchant ships in the area from Tuesday. The agency said in a statement that the ship’s captain “wanted to continue to Italy”.

However, Alarm Phone, an activist network that runs a hotline for migrant boats in distress, said it had been in contact with people they said were on the same boat and were desperate for help. . Passengers reported the captain abandoned ship on a small boat before it capsized, Alarm Phone said.

Vincent Cochetel, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’ special envoy for the Western and Central Mediterranean, tweeted that “this boat was not seaworthy and whatever some people on board may have said, the notion of distress cannot be discussed”.

Many migrants seek to bypass Greece and reach Italy, where they can more easily continue their journey north to family and other migrant communities elsewhere.

If the migrants had been rescued by the Greek authorities, they would have had to cross the often hostile Balkans to reach Western or Northern Europe. The road to northern Italy is closer and often more accessible.


Most migrants to Greece cross from Turkey, reaching neighboring eastern Greek islands in small boats or crossing the Evros River – known as Meric in Turkey – which runs along the land border.

Crossings have fallen sharply in recent years as Greece has stepped up maritime patrols and built a border fence along the Evros. But the country faces persistent allegations from migrants, human rights groups and Turkish officials that it is sending migrants back across the border to Turkey, illegally preventing them from applying for l ‘asylum. Athens has repeatedly denied this.

Alarm Phone blamed Greece’s migration policy for the sinking, saying Athens has become the “shield of Europe” to deter migration. The Greek Coast Guard defended their actions, saying they accompanied the vessel even after it refused assistance and then launched the search and rescue operation after the boat capsized.


Italy has recorded the vast majority of “irregular” arrivals in Europe so far this year, 55,160. That’s more than double the 21,884 arriving during the same period in 2022 and 16,737 in 2021. People from Ivory Coast, Egypt, Guinea, Pakistan and Bangladesh account for the largest number of arrivals this year, according to Interior Ministry data.

UN refugee officials note that the total number of migrants seeking to come to Europe in this way is falling, averaging around 120,000 a year.

In addition to the deadly Central Mediterranean route, the Western Mediterranean route is used by migrants seeking to reach Spain from Morocco or Algeria. The Eastern Mediterranean route has traditionally been used by Syrian, Iraqi, Afghan and other non-African migrants who travel first to Turkey and then attempt to reach Greece or other European destinations.


Even before Wednesday’s deaths, at least 1,039 people were missing from crossings of the central Mediterranean this year. The true figure is believed to be much higher given the likelihood that some wrecks were never recorded. In total, the International Organization for Migration has identified more than 27,000 missing migrants in the Mediterranean since 2014.


On April 18, 2015, the deadliest known shipwreck in the Mediterranean occurred when an overcrowded fishing boat collided off the coast of Libya with a cargo ship trying to come to its aid. Only 28 people survived. At first it was feared that the hull contained the remains of 700 people. Forensic experts who worked to identify the dead concluded in 2018 that there were originally 1,100 people on board.

On October 3, 2013, a trawler loaded with more than 500 people, many from Eritrea and Ethiopia, caught fire and capsized within sight of an uninhabited islet off the island of Lampedusa in southern Italy. Local fishermen rushed to try to help save lives. In the end, 155 survived and 368 people died.

Another shipwreck occurred a week later, on October 11, further out to sea south of Lampedusa. The disaster became known in Italy as the “child massacre”, for the 60 children among the more than 260 people who died. In 2017, the Italian weekly L’Espresso published audio recordings of the migrants’ desperate pleas for help and Italian and Maltese authorities apparently delayed the rescue.


Mediterranean countries have complained for years that they bear the brunt of welcoming and treating migrants and have long demanded that other countries step in and welcome them.

Poland, Hungary and other Eastern European countries have repeatedly refused an EU plan to share the burden of dealing with migrants. But after years of wrangling, EU leaders said last week there had been a breakthrough in negotiations for a new pact on migration and asylum.

Human rights groups say the EU has contracted the rescue of migrants to the Libyan Coast Guard, which sends them back to horrific camps where many are subjected to beatings, rape and torture. other abuses. The EU and member states have also reached agreements with other North African countries to improve their border control and prevent migrant boats from reaching Europe.


Follow all AP stories on global migration at https://apnews.com/hub/migration,

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