Tragedy on the Mediterranean: 1,040 refugees die in 14 days

Refugees trying to reach Europe from African and Asian countries have to undertake a dangerous journey to cross the Mediterranean Sea where 1040 refugees drowned in the last two weeks alone.

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

In this May 25, 2016, file photo made available by the Italian Navy, people try to jump in the water right before their boat overturns off the Libyan coast.

The last two weeks for humanity were heartbreaking: although at least 14,000 refugees were rescued in the Mediterranean Sea, more than 1,040 people drowned, and there is an undetermined number of missing.

Most of the refugees come from war-torn countries such as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and other African and Asian countries.

According to aid and refugee agencies, 83 children are among the dead, 20 of the children who drowned were newborns.

Libyan Red Crescent reported on Sunday that an additional 133 refugee bodies have washed up on the shore at the western Libyan city of Zuwara.

At least five children were among them.

Guards place the body of a refugee into a body bag after a boat sank off the coastal town of Zuwara, west of Tripoli, Libya June 4, 2016, / Reuters

The most tragic incident occurred when 700 people drowned off the coast of Libya. The Mediterranean Sea has become a cemetery. A mass graveyard for men, women, and children.

Federico Soda, Director of the Organization of Migration (IOM) Coordination Office for the Mediterranean in Rome noted: “The increase in numbers of arrivals is attributable, in part, to better weather, and in part to the use of bigger wooden boats that can carry more people than the rubber boats usually used. Refugees trying to reach European, such as Italian and Greek shores with wooden and rubber boats.”

According to an IOM reportsince the beginning of 2016, the estimated death toll stands at 2,443 with an unknown number of people missing.

Compared to first five months of 2015, the number of dead has risen by 34 percent.

Stefanos, an Eritrean survivor, told an IOM worker how the boat he was on sank during the dangerous journey and how he witnessed watching the deaths of women and children, not being able to do anything about it.

“We were taking on water, but we had a pump that helped us to push the water out. When the pump ran out of fuel, we asked for more fuel to the captain of the first boat, who said no. At this point, there was nothing left to do: the water was everywhere, and we slowly started to sink. There were about 35 women and 40 children next to me: they all died."

German rescuer from the humanitarian organisation Sea-Watch holds a deceased baby, off the Libyan coast May 27, 2016, / Reuters

Incidents sparked debates and concerns in European countries on how to stem the refugee influx and prevent new arrivals.

Plan to stop the refugee influx and deaths

Most of the European Union member states closed their borders and erected razor wire fences to stop illegal passages.

Refugees have been stranded on the borders of various countries waiting for permission from the governments to open the borders and let them pass.

A refugee stands next to the border fence at a makeshift camp on the Serbian-Hungarian border near the village of Horgos, Serbia, May 19, 2016, / Reuters

To solve this problem, in March, Turkey and the EU signed the "one in, one out" agreement.

According to the agreement, Turkey will take in all irregular refugees as of April 4, while on the same date resettlement of Syrians in Turkey to the EU states was launched.

The agreement aims to prevent the loss of lives in the Aegean Sea, to replace illegal immigration with legal immigration and break the refugee smuggling networks.

The agreement only covers the refugees arriving in Greece from Turkey via the Aegean Sea. Refugees attempting the dangerous journey on the Mediterranean to reach Europe are not a part of the agreement between Turkey and the EU.

Then-Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (L) shakes hands with European Council President Donald Tusk after a news conference at the end of an EU-Turkey summit in Brussels March 8, 2016, / Reuters

It is estimated that Turkey is hosting more than 3 million refugees across 26 refugee camps in the country.

A view of the refugee camp in Suruc, which is the largest camp in Turkey for Syrians whose number in the country has surpassed 3 million. / AA

How smugglers bring refugees to Europe

According to a report by the European Union border management agency Frontex, more than a million refugees arrived on the Italian and Greek shores in 2015.

The transports of the refugees are carried out by human smugglers, who have pocketed an estimated 4 billion Euros last year.

Most of the smugglers belong to criminal organisations and are also involved in selling illegal drugs and weapons.

Smugglers inform the refugees about the asylum processes in various European countries and sell them fake documents.

Iraqi-born Rekawt Kayani, 34, is the suspected head of an international people-smuggling ring which is believed to have brought refugees into Britain illegally. / NCA

Most of the refugees buy fake Syrian passports, ID cards, birth certificates and residential permits due to the civil war taking place in the country, as the asylum process for someone fleeing from war may give them priority during the selection process.

Social media is an effective tool for smugglers and refugees to get in contact with each other.

TRTWorld and agencies