Since the horrific shipwreck occurred only days ago, any hope of finding more survivors has dwindles. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a rundown boat carrying an estimated 800 migrants was heading to Europe in an escape attempt from their war torn country of Libya.
In statements from those who survived the wreck while on the three-deck fishing trawler, one of the smugglers crashed into the King Jacob, a Portuguese flagged container ship that was responding to their distress call. When this happened, hundreds of migrants moved to one side of the dilapidated vessel, causing it to overturn.
When this occurred, hundreds of people on the top decks were thrown into the frigid waters of the Mediterranean Sea. However, the bulk of the passengers had been locked in large areas used to store fish, making it impossible for them to get out. Officials have confirmed that just 28 migrants have been rescued, with hundreds of dead bodies pulled from the water and the remainder trapped in the sunken vessel.
While officials have not given an exact number of the deceased, it is believed to be around 800, making this the worst disaster in history in the Mediterranean. The survivors have been taken to Catania, Sicily where they are being treated and processed.
To help family members and friends confirm and identify victims of the accident, a special email address has been established. While this is by far the worst accident of its kind, it is not the only capsized ship involving human traffickers carrying migrants to other countries in anticipation of starting a new life.
As reported by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the rate of deaths for migrants in the Mediterranean just this year has surpassed numbers from 2014 during the same timeframe. Last year, an estimated 3,279 people have lost their lives and so far this year, 1,776 people have perished. In 2014, approximately 219,000 migrants tried to cross over into Europe.
As stated by Joel Millman, spokesman for IOM, the death toll for 2015 could easily reach upwards of 30,000. To get into Europe, migrants pay anywhere from $6,000 to $10,000 US dollars. Those who cannot afford the high cost of being on the upper decks are forced to stay in horrific conditions locked below. For this trip alone, authorities believe the smugglers were paid $800,000.
A large number of the deceased were adults, there were also many children. Although migrants know there is danger on many levels in trying to escape they truly have no idea of the horrible conditions they must face for the price of freedom. To combat the growing problem of human smuggling and to save lives, an EU plan calls for better coordination with law enforcement.
Two people in connection with the shipwreck have been arrested, to include the 27-year-old Tunisian captain, Mohammed Ali Malek. The other individual is 25-year-old Syrian national Mahmud Bikhit. Both men were formally charged with human trafficking and the captain received an additional charge of reckless multiple homicide.