The Slatest

Nearly 6,000 Migrants Rescued, at Least Nine Die in Single Weekend off Italian Coast

Emergency medical workers with a woman, believed to be Somali, who was rescued in the Mediterranean and flown to Malta on an Italian military helicopter.

Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters

The world’s deadliest crossing for migrants, the Mediterranean, was again the site of a crisis this weekend as nearly 6,000 individuals fleeing North Africa by boat were rescued by Italian authorities and at least nine died. Nearly 500 such migrants have died in 2015 after an estimated 3,500 were killed in 2014. Warm weather and “improving sea conditions” are said to be encouraging an increasing number of travel attempts, while the recently reduced scale of European rescue operations is a subject of controversy. From the Guardian:


The majority of the operations this month have been performed by the Italian coastguard and navy and some commercial ships in international waters, rather than the European-backed Triton mission that patrols waters within 30 miles of the Italian coast.

Triton replaced a far more ambitious programme conducted by Italy, the Mare Nostrum mission, at the end of last year. Mare Nostrum was a one-year programme that cost Italy about €9m a month, compared with Triton’s budget of €2.9m, and carried out search and rescue missions over a 27,000 square-mile area.

Slate’s Josh Keating wrote in February about the horrific domestic conditions that have pushed thousands of people—many from the countries of Syria and Eritrea—into risky migration attempts.

As one survivor said in February: “We know what fate we’re going towards and the probabilities of dying, but it’s a sacrifice we consciously make to have a future.”