Typically, by this time of year, the number of refugees crossing the Mediterranean from the northern coast of Africa would have subsided. Rough waters brought on by winter winds and currents would decrease traffic on the sea. However this year, the rush of immigrants continues at an alarming pace, resulting in a higher number of dead and missing persons lost to the cold waters than ever before.
To compound matters, relief and rescue agencies report that the devious smugglers and racketeers in Lybia have used all the better seafaring vessels, leaving only leaky rafts and what would generously be called boats for travel. With each crossing, refugees find fewer and fewer sea-worthy crafts available in which they can make the journey.
As if this situation is not evil enough, there are now reports that the extortioners are sending the over-loaded rafts into the surf, only to follow them out to sea and steal back the motors, fuel and life jackets, often at gunpoint, leaving those on the craft to travel at the mercy of the currents.
Most shocking is number who have died this year in the waters south of Sicily. It is estimated that the number who lost their lives in the journey from Lybia to Sicily will surpass the previous year’s global total for those who died in the Mediterranean in 2015 and before. Initial attempts to stem the tide of those fleeing their African homelands for a better life in Europe have failed. But we must not stop until this tragic global crisis has ended. If the winter seas will not slow the flow, then the best of humanity’s effort and goodness must intervene.