Photo by Massimo Sestini/Italian Navy/UNHCR
More than 36,000 migrants fleeing conflict, poverty, and other circumstances in countries such as Syria and Eritrea have attempted to make the deadly journey across the Mediterranean into Europe so far this year. Their boats have largely launched off from Libya and attempted to enter through points in Italy, Greece, and Spain.At least 1,800 people are believed to have died making the perilous journey in the last four months, but after years of escalation Europe's migrant crisis may have finally hit a tipping point.
On April 15, as many as 400 people were presumed dead after the boat they were traveling on capsized off the Libyan coast. Just five days later, the deadliest migrant boat disaster in history occurred when a boat carrying as many as 900 people overturned south of the Italian island of Lampedusa. Two more boat disasters occurred the following day.WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES BELOW
On May 2, 2014, more than 350 migrants, including a pregnant woman, disembarked from the Italian Navy Ship Libra in the port of Palermo, after being rescued in the Mediterranean on a route between North Africa and Sicily.The rescue mission was part of the Mare Nostrum program, which was launched by the Italian government in 2013 to search for and rescue migrants attempting to traverse the Mediterranean by boat. Mare Nostrum was scaled back in November and replaced with the smaller, European Union-funded Triton program — which operates on a third of the budget.Related: A teenage survivor of the Mediterranean's worst migrant disaster speaks of his traumatic ordeal. Read more here.
A navy ship filled with migrants left Sicily's Augusta harbor on June 1, 2014. Italian navy patrol ships rescued more than 3,500 migrants in May 2014, as the crisis in the southern Mediterranean escalated last year. A total of 3,612 people from Syria and North Africa were recovered from 11 boats and taken to other ports in Sicily and Lampedusa.
On June 15, 2014, migrants from Africa were temporarily sheltered in the St. Curato D'Ars Catholic Church in the Sicilian town of Palermo. The Italian coast guard and navy rescued more than 300 migrants whose boats ran into trouble in the Mediterranean and recovered the bodies of 10 migrants whose dinghy had overturned.
African migrants are taken to a detention center after being detained in northern Libya on June 1, 2014. The southwestern tip of the country — along the borders of Algeria and Niger — has become a frequent crossing point from sub-Saharan African countries heading north for Europe.Well-organized smuggling networks in Libya have taken advantage of the chaos in Libya following the overthrow of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi four years ago. Border officials told Reuters that up to 200 Africans cross the Ghat border strip every day.Related: Europe or Die: Our documentary about the migrant crisis. Watch here.
Rescue workers pulled the bodies of illegal immigrants onto the shore of al Qarbole, some 37 miles east of Tripoli on August 25, 2014, after a boat carrying 200 illegal immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa sunk off the Libyan capital two days earlier.
Migrants sitting under the helipad of the NGO Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) ship Phoenix are given water after their group of 104 sub-Saharan Africans on board a rubber dinghy was rescued some 25 miles off the Libyan coast on October 4, 2014. MOAS, a privately-funded humanitarian initiative, began operating at the end of August and has assisted in the rescue of thousands of migrants crossing from Libyan shores towards Europe.
Operation Triton, began on November 1, 2014, and more than 20 countries are involved in the new program which is backed by 2.9 million euros ($3.1m) monthly in EU funding, which is about two-thirds less than Mare Nostrum. Triton works in the international waters only up to 30 miles from the Italian coast. Its main purpose is to control the border, not rescue migrants.
Migrants arrived by boat at the Sicilian harbor of Pozzallo on February 15, 2015. Some 275 migrants rescued from overcrowded boats near Libya arrived safely in Sicily days after more than 300 others died trying to make the crossing.
Coffins — to be used for migrants who died while trying to reach Italy on a rubber boat — were unloaded from a vehicle at the Sicilian harbor of Augusta on March 4, 2015. At least 10 North African migrants died when their craft overturned in the southern Mediterranean, while more than 1,000 more were rescued from eight other vessels, according to Italian and Tunisian authorities.Related: The European asylum system is dysfunctional: UNHCHR speaks to VICE News about the migrant crisis. Read here.
Italian rescue workers on the island of Lampedusa carried a child off a coastguard vessel on April 20, 2015. The infant was among people rescued from a sinking dinghy. Some needed medical treatment for bad burns suffered before boarding their boat in Libya.
A sailboat carrying migrants trying to reach Greece capsized while trying to reach the coast of the southeastern island of Rhodes on April 20, 2015. At least three people drowned, according to the Greek coast guard.
Europe or Die: Our documentary about the migrant crisis. Watch all five episodes here.Episode One: Storming Spain's Razor-Wire FenceEpisode Two: Death Boats to Greece