Emboldened Smugglers Among Chain of Factors Leading to Rising Migrant Deaths on High Seas

Nearly nine times more migrants have died so far this year in Mediterranean crossings compared to last year at this time — swallowed by the sea as Europe beckons.
Why is this the year of so many deaths? There is no single reason. A chain of factors interlock, overlap and unfold into catastrophe on the high seas.
Smugglers are bolder and increasingly ruthless. They're taking more risks with unseaworthy vessels, and sometimes sending migrants out with no one at the helm.
The phasing out last fall of Italy's Mare Nostrum rescue operation, which used big ships to comb the sea far and wide, has left a gaping void that is filled in part by hulking merchant ships ill-equipped to pluck panicked souls from small, capsizing vessels.
The International Organization for Migration, or IOM, estimates that as of May 7 Mediterranean deaths stood at 1,829, compared to 207 in the same period in 2014. This year's rate soared before the onset of the warm season when crossings multiply, and despite a boom in successful crossings last year.



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