Since 1993, 20,000 people have died in the Mediterranean Sea while fleeing war-torn Africa for the safety of European shores. Now, the world’s first private maritime search and rescue operation is doing everything it can to help them. And they have already saved thousands of lives.
The UN estimates that 207,000 people tried to clandestinely cross the Mediterranean last year. A number that’s accelerating rapidly as conflicts on that continent grow worse. Migrants fleeing Syria and Iraq are adding to their numbers as they travel from the Middle East to Libya before enlisting human traffickers to smuggle them into Europe.
Forget the politics for a second, these are hundreds of thousands of men, women and children taking to the sea aboard what are often unsafe, overcrowded vessels that catch fire and sink and on which they may have inadequate access to food, drinking water and medical supplies.
On October 3, 2013, a boat carrying over 500 migrants caught fire and sank just a quarter mile from the shore of the Italian island Lambedusa. Over 360 people lost their lives, within view of the shore. It served as a wake up call for European authorities.