TIME Bangladesh

Bangladesh Factory Owner Charged With Murder Over Rana Plaza Collapse

BANGLADESH-BUILDING-DISASTER-TEXTILE
AFP—AFP/Getty Images Bangladeshi property tycoon Sohel Rana (C), seen wearing police-issue body armor, is escorted for his appearance in court in Dhaka on April 29, 2013.

More than 1,100 people died in what was the country’s worst-ever industrial disaster

Authorities in Bangladesh will press murder charges against the owners of the Rana Plaza garment-factory complex in Dhaka that collapsed in 2013, killing more than 1,100 people in the country’s worst-ever industrial disaster, AFP reports.

“We are going to press murder charges against 41 people including the owners of the building, Sohel Rana and his parents, later today,” Bijoy Krishna Kar, the lead investigator for the Bangladeshi police, told the news agency. “It was a mass killing. All 41 of those charged have a collective responsibility for the tragedy.”

If convicted, the accused could face the death penalty, he added.

More than 2,400 workers were rescued or escaped alive after the factory collapsed on April 24, 2013. Even after several complaints about cracks appearing in the walls, thousands of people were reportedly forced to continue working in the complex before it collapsed.

“They [Sohel Rana and the factory owners] discussed and decided to keep the factory open,” Kar said. “They sent the workers to their deaths with cool heads.”

Rana, who attempted to flee the country in the days following the disaster, was arrested near Bangladesh’s border with India a week after the collapse. Although the police announced plans to indict Rana last year, the process was delayed as they awaited government approval to press charges against a dozen government officials who are among the 41 now set to be formally accused. Rana and the others will also be charged with violating Bangladesh’s building code.

Many Western retailers source clothes from Bangladeshi suppliers owing to cheap labor costs, and the disaster resulted in calls for immediate reforms including safety inspections and higher wages across Bangladesh’s $33 billion garment industry, which employs close to 4 million workers.

TIME portfolio

James Nachtwey’s Latest Dispatches From Nepal

TIME contract photographer James Nachtwey reports from the quake-devastated country

This is second part in a two-part series of dispatches filed by TIME contract photographer James Nachtwey from Nepal, days after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake devastated parts of the central Asian country. Read part one.

The mountains of Nepal are weeping. The restless earth shifted, and thousands of people perished. Many more thousands have been injured. Hundreds of villages have been flattened. Stone houses made by hand were literally shaken apart. But what was created by hand can be rebuilt the same way, and that is exactly what the Nepalese villagers are doing. What can never be replaced are the loved ones, many of whom are still being discovered buried beneath the rubble.

Having witnessed the destruction in Kathmandu and surrounding towns, I attempted to see what had happened in the remote mountain villages. The epicenter of the quake was located in Gorkha District, most of which was inaccessible, except by helicopter. The 301 and 206 Aviation Squadrons of the Indian Army were flying out of Pokhara, airlifting food and supplies and evacuating the injured. It was a fast paced, non-stop operation that required highly skilled pilots to land with very little clearance on small terraced fields carved into the steep mountainsides. Some flights could find no place to land. Others hovered and shoved food, blankets and tarps out of the open helicopter doors.

Photograph by James Nachtwey for TIME

One mission took us to an extremely remote Buddhist monastery deep in the snow-covered, high Himalayas to evacuate a group of young monks from their damaged dwellings.

Barpak is one of the larger villages in the district. 1,200 out of 1,475 houses were destroyed. 69 people were killed. Some are still missing. 150 were seriously injured. The inhabitants quickly began the rebuilding process. Furniture, utensils and personal possessions were slowly salvaged from the ruins, and piece-by-piece, individual stones, wooden planks and corrugated metal, were retrieved and sorted, to be used again. The people were on their own, fending for themselves, as they always had.

A rescue team discovered Pur Bahadur Gurung, 26, buried in the wreckage of a house. Only then did the natural stoicism of the people break down.

International Medical Corps flew into the village of Gumda and set up a two-day, mobile health clinic. As in Barpak, the people busied themselves with dismantling the ruins in order to rebuild. Rejina Gurung, aged 3, was found beneath a fallen roof, and alongside four others from the village who had died, was buried in a field overlooking a broad valley, far below.

The Nepalese are known for their strength and self-reliance, their equanimity, friendliness and spirituality. As their character was being tested by a natural disaster, they revealed an unshakeable resilience. It became clear that who they are has been forged in hardship and closeness to nature.

James Nachtwey is a TIME contract photographer, documenting wars, conflicts and critical social issues.

TIME Transportation

The Eerie Links Between the Lusitania and the Titanic

Ocean liner RMS 'Lusitania', 20th century.
Print Collector / Getty Images An illustration of the ocean liner RMS 'Lusitania'

May 7, 1915: A torpedo from a German U-boat sinks the Lusitania off the coast of Ireland, killing nearly 1,200 people

When the Lusitania went down, three years after the sinking of the Titanic, the similarities were hard to overlook. Both British ocean liners had been the largest ships in the world when first launched (the Lusitania at 787 feet in 1906, and the Titanic at 883 feet in 1911). And both were ostentatiously luxurious, designed to ferry the world’s wealthiest passengers between Europe and the United States in comfort and elegance.

The difference, of course, was what sunk them: an iceberg for the Titanic on her maiden voyage in 1912, and a German torpedo for the Lusitania on this day, May 7, 100 years ago.

Just before the Lusitania left New York, bound for Liverpool, German officials posted notices in American newspapers warning that any ship under British flag, including merchant vessels and passenger liners, could be targeted as the war between the nations intensified. But not everyone believed the German Navy would follow through on the threat. Notable doubters included Winston Churchill and the Lusitania’s captain, W. T. Turner, who told a reporter, “It’s the best joke I’ve heard in many days, this talk of torpedoing.”

Also among the doubters were the 128 American passengers who died along with more than 1,000 others when the Lusitania sank — compared to roughly 1,500 people lost on the Titanic.

The lists of the dead from both vessels might have been ripped from the society pages. Among those who died on the Titanic were Benjamin Guggenheim, heir to his family’s vast mining fortune; Isidor Straus, co-owner of Macy’s; and John Jacob Astor IV, widely reported to be the richest man in the world.

Lost on the Lusitania were famed Broadway producer Charles Frohman, fashion designer Carrie Kennedy, and millionaire sportsman Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, who was on his way to England to lead the annual meeting of the International Horse Breeders’ Association.

The small world of the immensely wealthy created a number of eerie connections between the two doomed ships. Vanderbilt, for example, had been booked on the Titanic three years earlier but didn’t sail. Lady Duff-Gordon, one of the most famous Titanic survivors, had a ticket for the Lusitania but canceled at the last minute for health reasons, per Smithsonian.com.

Despite their similarities, however, the two ships were a sociological study of contrasts in the human response to imminent disaster. On the Titanic, women and children — and the very wealthy — were more likely to be saved during an ordered evacuation effort that followed the social rules of the day. On the Lusitania, according to TIME, chaos reigned and the fittest survived, winning the race to lifeboats and flotation devices.

Partly, the difference had to do with the time it took the two ships to sink. Titanic passengers had a leisurely 2 hours and 40 minutes to sort out a system, while the Lusitania went down in only 18 minutes, meaning there was little time to advance beyond a fight-or-flight response.

Furthermore, everyone aboard the Lusitania was keenly aware of how things had turned out on the Titanic three years earlier. They were, therefore, “disabused of the idea that there was any such thing as a ship that was too grand to sink — their own included,” as TIME reports.

Read more about how the sinking of the Lusitania is part of the story of World War I, here in the TIME archives: Insane Years

TIME Nepal

Nepal’s Mountain Bikers Are Getting Aid to Isolated Quake-Hit Villages

Mountain bike team member hands out tarpaulin in villages in need of relief after the Nepal earthquake of April 25, 2015
Caleb Spear A mountain bike team member hands out tarpaulin in villages in need of relief after the Nepal earthquake of April 25, 2015

Now that's what you call pedal power

Nepal’s national mountain biking team was making practice runs last week in Chobar, when the 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit on April 25.

“People were screaming and houses collapsed in thick dust, making it difficult to breathe,” recalls team member Aayman Tamang.

The village of Chobar is a 20-minute bike ride from Kathmandu and was badly hit, with many people trapped in their houses.

“We immediately started rescue efforts,” Tamang says.

Just a few hours later, they survived more tremors while pulling out a mother and her son from under the rubble of a half-collapsed house — both of them alive. In the immediate aftermath of Nepal’s biggest catastrophe since 1934, the young men realized that their skill at biking through the mountains would be invaluable in relief operations and making contact with isolated upland communities.

Nepal Cyclists Ride to Rescue was born. The group is a joint initiative between the mountain biking team, including national champion Ajay Pandit Chhetri, and Himalayan Single Track, an extreme mountain biking company that operates tours in Nepal.

The members of the group know the mountains around the capital Kathmandu intimately, and which tracks to take to reach quake-hit communities. They typically don’t use regular mountain bikes to do the work but bicycles specially adapted to carrying cargo.

Some communities reached by the group, like Bugmati — once a village of brick homes but now a pile of rubble — are just 15 minutes from Kathmandu. Since the quake, cyclists like Arun Karki have delivered food and supplies on a daily basis to villagers huddled miserably under tarpaulin shelters.

“We know the villages well since we cycle here often,” explains Arun Karki from the National Team.

Other communities are considerably further away.

Sixty miles north of Kathmandu lies the hill village of Shikharbesi, at the southern tip of Langtang National Park. Normally, the park is a tourist attraction, popular with foreign trekkers. But today avalanches have blocked the roads and hundreds of people are still unaccounted for. The rescue riders have established a basecamp here, distributing food, hygiene kits and medical supplies to surrounding villages.

“Every second house is destroyed, it’s unbelievable,” says Jenny Caunt, owner of Himalayan Single Track, originally from Australia and the only woman in Ride to Rescue. The narrow path leading up to Shikharbesi, which has yet to see any kind of aid, is covered with boulders and rubble, making movement difficult.

“We loaded our supplies on small trucks to get as close to the village as possible, but the last one and a half hours are on foot. Our team carried 800 kg of supplies to the village and was only supported by locals who wanted to help,” Caunt says. “From here, small groups of cyclists venture out to see if we are needed anywhere else.”

It is back-breaking work. “After two days of lifting and carrying goods I could barely move my arms,” says Tamang. But it has given the group ideas. More than just delivering aid, Ride to Rescue now hopes to rebuild houses and even a school in Shikharbesi.

“I’ve seen young men step up in unique ways during this crisis. They want to contribute profoundly and make a difference,” says American Caleb Spear, executive director at Portal Bikes, an organization that constructs the hefty bicycles currently being used to carry supplies around the hills. (They can also be used to power simple, attachable machines like water pumps or corn shellers.)

Since the earthquake Portal and another company, Epic Mountain Bike, have mobilized a group of 30 mountain bikers to distribute relief items by bike.

“It’s much easier than using cars, because we don’t need gas,” Spear explains, knowing that many gas stations have been closed since the start of the disaster. Besides supplying Kathmandu and nearby areas on two wheels, this group of bikers — most of them Nepali with a few Americans, French and Germans — also distributes and sets up tin shelters in remote villages. In Baseri, about 110 miles east of Kathmandu, they are looking after 82 households affected by the earthquake.

Some tourists who had booked trips through Epic Mountain Bike have been helping with relief work, and those who have returned home are now raising money for Nepal. All of a sudden, Kathmandu’s small biking community has a profile.

“We’re getting off our bikes and into people’s lives,” says Tamang. “We use our passion for biking to help them get back on their feet.”

TIME Nepal

These Are the 5 Facts That Explain Nepal’s Devastating Earthquake

Destroyed villages sit on mountain tops near the epicenter of Saturday's massive earthquake, in the Gorkha District of Nepal on April 29, 2015.
Wally Santana—AP Destroyed villages sit on mountain tops near the epicenter of the massive earthquake, in the Gorkha District of Nepal on April 29, 2015.

The 7.8 magnitude earthquake will hamper Nepal for years

The earthquake that ravaged Nepal, killing at least 5,000 people, has revealed the best and worst both in the Himalayan nation and those rushing to its aid. These 5 facts explain what’s shaping the domestic and international responses to the 7.8 magnitude earthquake, and where Nepal goes from here.

1. Quick to aid

Aid pledges are pouring in: $10 million from the US, $7.6 million from the UK, and $3.9 million from Australia, among others. But as welcome as this influx of funds is, the sad reality is that Nepal is ill-equipped to make full use of these resources. That is why countries are lining up to donate technical expertise via disaster response teams as well. China has sent a 62-member search-and-rescue team to help the recovery effort. Israel has sent 260 rescue experts in addition to a 200-person strong medical team, while Japan has sent another 70 people as part of a disaster relief team. The United Nations, in addition to releasing $15 million from its central emergency-response fund, is busy trying to coordinate international efforts to maximize their effectiveness.

(TIME, Quartz, Wall Street Journal)

2. A weak base

Nepal’s infrastructure was critically feeble even before disaster struck. With per capita GDP less than $700 a year, many Nepalese build their own houses without oversight from trained engineers. Nepal tried to institute a building code in 1994 following another earthquake that claimed the lives of 700 people, but it turned out to be essentially unenforceable. To make matters worse, a shortage of paved roads in the country means that assistance can’t reach remote regions where it’s needed most. Local authorities are simply overwhelmed, as is Nepal’s sole international airport in Kathmandu. Planes filled with blankets, food and medicine are idling on tarmacs because there are not enough terminals available.

(TIME, Washington Post, TIME)

3. Half a year’s output gone?

The economic cost of the earthquake is estimated to be anywhere between $1 billion to $10 billion, for a country with an annual GDP of approximately $20 billion. The economic impact will be lasting. Tourism is crucial to the Nepalese economy, accounting for about 8 percent of the total economy and employing more than a million people. Mount Everest, a dangerous destination under the best of circumstances, is the heart of that industry. The earthquake this past weekend triggered an avalanche that took the lives of at least 17 climbers, and as many as 200 people are still stranded on the mountain.

(Quartz, Deutsche Welle, Wall Street Journal, The Independent)

4. Internal political barriers

Nepal’s domestic politics are not helping. Nepal’s 1996-2006 civil war claimed the lives of at least 12,000 Nepalese, and the country’s political system has never really recovered. The government that stood before the quake was woefully ill-prepared to deal with a disaster of such scale. There have been no elections at the district, village or municipal level for nearly 20 years, and the committees in charge of local councils are not organized enough to deal with the difficult task of coordinating emergency assistance. Things are not much better at the national level, where Kathmandu has seen nine prime ministers in eight years.

(Washington Post, New York Times, TIME)

5. A competition for influence

Not all foreign aid is altruistic, and some countries never miss an opportunity to capitalize on tragedy. For years, Nepal has been an object of competition between India and China. For India, Nepal has been a useful buffer state between itself and China ever since Beijing gained control over Tibet. Relative to China, India and Nepal are much closer linguistically and culturally. Nepalese soldiers train in India, and New Delhi is a main weapons supplier to Nepal. For China, Nepal is an important component of its “New Silk Road” plan to link Asia with Europe, and offers a useful ally against Tibetan independence. China was already Nepal’s biggest foreign investor as of 2014. While in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake both Asian powers are providing significant assistance, it’s in the reconstruction phase where the true competition between the two will emerge. Pay particular attention to the race to build hydroelectric power plants: both Beijing and New Delhi have been positioning themselves to take advantage of Nepal’s 6,000 rivers to feed their respective energy needs.

(Quartz, BBC, TIME)

TIME Nepal

Six More Ways to Give to Nepal Earthquake Relief

Financial support is essential to support the rebuilding process

As international aid to support victims of the Nepal earthquake ramps up, individual financial support will also be essential as the landlocked nation’s grapples with the natural disaster that has claimed more than 4,400 lives and devastated infrastructure.

On top of the six charities TIME profiled Monday, dozens of relief agencies are supporting recovery efforts. Here are six more ways to support.

Facebook

The social media giant has set up a donation platform that enables users to donate to the International Medical Corps. 100% of the proceeds will help provide first-response care and hygiene kits to survivors. Facebook has also pledged $2 million to the organization’s relief efforts. Also, as Facebook is by far the most popular social media platform, it makes it easier to share your munificence and motivate friends to donate as well.

Lutheran World Relief

The U.N.-affiliated organization immediately shipped nearly 10,000 quilts and 100 personal water filtration mechanisms to Nepal. They are working in close coordination with a local disaster government agency called the Nepali District Disaster Relief Committee.

“This is still a scary situation,” said Narayan Gyawali, a local staff member currently in Nepal in a press release.

To donate to the Lutheran World Relief organization, click here. If you prefer to send physical checks, the Lutheran World Relief is especially well organized.

AmeriCares

AmeriCares has an emergency response office in Mumbai, India and have sent a team to the Nepal disaster zone. On its website, AmeriCares says, “for every $1 donated AmeriCares has provided $20 in aid.” They are also preparing medical supplies and will distribute tetanus and measles vaccinations because many residents are now living in close proximity with one another.

Click here to make a donation.

Islamic Relief USA

Based in Virginia and operating for nearly 25 years, Islamic Relief USA has a presence in more than 35 countries across the world. They are launching an appeal to raise $100,000 dollars for relief efforts in Nepal. “We are concerned about the victims of this tragedy and are sending our emergency response teams from different countries to respond,” said CEO Anwar Khan in a press release.

The agency also advocates for active participation in relief efforts, which they suggest can be done by organizing community fundraisers.

To help Islamic Relief USA reach its target goal, click here.

Doctors Without Borders

MSF is sent eight teams to Nepal to assist those in need, including a highly-skilled surgical team that will set up mobile clinics in the hopes of reaching people in remote areas. They are also contributing emergency medical supplies and a non-medical team in Kathmandu.

To donate click here.

Charity: Water

The people of Nepal will need significant help getting access to clean water as they recover from the earthquake. Charity: Water is in an excellent position to do just that. This smaller organization is networked into the country from previous clean water projects, and has begun a relief campaign in which 100% of proceeds go to Nepal’s earthquake disaster relief, with the immediate focus being to raise money for emergency supplies.

Click here to offer support.

TIME Nepal

Where Will the Next Big Earthquake Hit?

Search and rescue team work among the debris of houses after a powerful earthquake hits Katmandu, Nepal on April 26, 2015.
Sunil Pradhan—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images Search and rescue team work among the debris of houses after a powerful earthquake hits Katmandu, Nepal on April 26, 2015.

Where seismic activity meets poverty, you have disaster waiting to happen

For years, seismic experts predicted that a big earthquake would hit the Himalayan region between India and Nepal.

The Himalayas are being pushed upwards at the rate of about one centimeter a year as the Indian subcontinent smashes against the Eurasian plate— a process that has been ongoing for millions for years. As the plates thrust against each other huge amounts of pressure builds up until it releases as an earthquake.

The region experiences a magnitude-8 earthquake approximately every 75 years, with the last in 1934. It killed about 10,000 people.

Though it’s impossible to predict exactly when or where big earthquakes will happen, areas where seismic activity meet underdevelopment and poverty are prone to the most devastation.

“In several places, the higher seismic risk overlaps with places with poor construction,” Hari Kumar, South Asia regional coordinator for GeoHazards International in Delhi, told TIME. GeoHazards is a non-government organization that helps to reduce earthquake-risk in developing countries.

The consequences of substandard building and a lack of earthquake preparedness were seen in devastating force in Saturday’s 7.8 magnitude earthquake near Kathmandu. Scores of structures collapsed and more than 3,600 lives were lost.

Kumar warns that other cities and towns in Nepal, as well as several in India, Pakistan and Bhutan, are at high risk of a similar disaster due to the activity of the tectonic faults underneath them and their lack of preparation.

“It is not as though Nepal didn’t know about the problem, but that it was so huge they didn’t know where to start,” Kumar says, adding that the country lacked the resources and technical expertise to make existing buildings resistant to earthquakes (a process known as seismic retrofitting). “The government was working against time.”

According to Brian Tucker, the president of GeoHazards, the U.S., New Zealand, Japan, Turkey (particularly Istanbul) and Chile are all high-risk countries where tectonic plates are under strain but they have taken steps to prepare buildings and educate the people in order to mitigate the consequences of a big quake.

“Places you would really shudder to think what would happen are Tehran, Iran; Karachi, Pakistan; Padang, Indonesia and Lima, Peru,” he tells TIME. “If you ask me to place a bet on where the next big earthquake would be, the strongest evidence is offshore Sumatra.”

In 2004, a 9.3 magnitude earthquake struck 100 miles off the northwest tip of Sumatra, Indonesia generating a huge tsunami that killed some 230,000 people and cause widespread devastation.

“Padang is much smaller than Kathmandu so it wouldn’t create the same economic or political chaos that one in Tehran, Karachi or Istanbul would cause,” he said, but he stressed that an earthquake there could trigger a tsunami with similar devastating consequences.

Rapid migration from rural areas to cities worldwide has meant buildings in many cities with poor economies have sprung up quickly to accommodate the new influx of people.

“They don’t have resources to rebuild all the schools, hospitals, houses and apartments according to good building practice,” says Tucker.

Assessing the vulnerability of buildings such as schools and hospitals in these places will go a long way in preventing huge human and financial costs when a big quake strikes, he says. But “We need to create mechanisms to reward and incentivize the private sector to adhere to building codes.”

Read next: Here Are Six Ways you Can Give to Nepal Earthquake Relief

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Nepal

See Photos From a Survivor of the Mount Everest Avalanche

At least 17 people were killed Saturday after an earthquake outside Kathmandu triggered the avalanche

An initial wave of survivors from Mount Everest arrived in Kathmandu on Sunday, one day after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck outside Nepal’s capital city and triggered an avalanche that killed at least 17 people and injured dozens more, the Associated Press reports.

AFP photographer Roberto Schmidt was at Everest Base Camp on Saturday when the avalanche flattened parts of it. After capturing the snow and debris rushing down, he turned his camera to document the aftermath: mangled tents, rescuers helping the injured and the helicopters taking them off the mountain.

Read next: First Survivors of Everest Avalanche Reach Quake-Hit Kathmandu

TIME russia

Watch This Slow-Moving Landslide Devour a Russian Road

The landslide was caused by a coal mining accident

A massive landslide moving like molasses downed trees and power lines before inching across a road in Russia earlier this month, and the whole incident was caught on video.

The landslide occurred near Novokuznetsk, which is east of the Ural Mountains, according to National Geographic. In the four-minute video, a mixture of soil and rocks moves with slow but deliberate force across the Russian landscape, dragging down everything that comes in its path. No one was hurt.

The disaster was caused by a collapse of waste material at a nearby coal mine, a coal industry official told local Russian media. Mines can be a common trigger for landslides worldwide.

[National Geographic]

TIME europe

What You Need to Know About the E.U.’s Refugee Crisis

Thousands of asylum seekers have now died trying to reach Europe from Africa, putting the E.U.'s refugee policies under scrutiny

At least 700, but perhaps as many as 950, refugees are feared dead after a boat capsized off the coast of Libya on Sunday.

The disaster is merely the latest in such deadly incidents in the Mediterranean Sea, and has prompted much criticism and soul-searching over Europe’s response to the the waves of people fleeing poor and war-torn countries in Africa. Here is some of the background to the developing crisis:

Who are the migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea?

Although it is still unclear exactly which countries the migrants feared dead in Sunday’s disaster hail from, refugees being transported across the Mediterranean Sea by smugglers come mostly from North African and West Asian countries like Yemen, Nigeria, Gambia, Syria and Libya, to name a few. Some come from even further afield, however. One of the 28 survivors of the vessel that capsized on Sunday — who reportedly told authorities that the boat was carrying 950 people — was from Bangladesh.

Where are they going and why?

Most people attempting the perilous crossing are fleeing poverty or violent conflict in their native countries and are attempting to reach Europe, where they seek asylum and better employment opportunities. Countries like Spain, Greece, Italy and the small island nation of Malta are common destinations. The vessel on Sunday capsized off the coast of Libya near the island of Lampedusa, Italy’s southernmost landmass, which is about 127 miles from Sicily and 109 miles from Malta.

How did the boat capsize?

Italian authorities received an emergency call on Saturday night about a boat bearing migrants 70 miles off the Libyan coast, the New York Times reported, and ordered the closest commercial vessel — Portuguese freighter King Jacob — to make contact and wait for rescue ships to arrive. The migrants on board rushed to one side of the boat on glimpsing the freighter in order to signal it, overturning it in the process. The Bangladeshi survivor told Italian authorities that the smugglers had locked about 300 others in the boat’s hold, but his account could not be confirmed.

Aren’t incidents like this becoming tragically common?

Yes. The influx of refugees into Europe, particularly Italy, has increased dramatically in recent months. Some 170,100 refugees arrived in Italy in 2014, according to the United Nations’ refugee agency UNHCR, and the International Organization for Migration estimates that 21, 191 migrants reached the country this year as of April 17 — over 10,000 within the past week.

International Organization for Migration

Fatalities during the perilous journey have risen dramatically during the same period, with an estimated 3,500 deaths in 2014. Sunday’s disaster, if the deaths are confirmed, will be the region’s worst ever and will take the total death toll this year above 1,500. About 1,100 of those will have died last week alone, with another 400 migrants believed to have drowned off the Libyan coast in a separate incident last Monday. Other horror stories from the past week include the rescue of burn victims from a rubber raft (smugglers reportedly didn’t allow them to get treatment after a gas cylinder exploded before their departure in Libya) and reports of Muslim refugees tossing Christian refugees overboard.

What are European countries doing about the issue?

Sunday’s incident has prompted a wave of criticism against the E.U., with experts as well as national leaders across the continent accusing the E.U. of mishandling the issue of refugees crossing the Mediterranean. “This disaster confirms how urgent it is to restore a robust rescue-at-sea operation and establish credible legal avenues to reach Europe,” Antonio Guterres, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said in a statement. Heads of state stressed the need to tackle the root causes of human trafficking in countries like Libya, with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi calling it a “plague in our continent” and French President Francois Hollande urging the E.U. to provide “more boats, more over-flights and a more intense battle against people trafficking.”

The Triton program, Europe’s effort to rescue and rehabilitate migrants, is being slammed as inadequate, ineffective and underfunded in comparison to its predecessor, Italy’s Mare Nostrum program. Mare Nostrum, which reportedly had a budget of nearly $10 million compared to Triton’s $3.2 million, was shut down late last year amid claims that it encouraged more refugees to seek passage to Europe.

The issue will be discussed in Luxembourg on Monday when the E.U. Foreign Affairs Council meets, according to High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini.

“The world needs to react with the conviction with which it eliminated piracy off the coast of Somalia a few years ago,” said IOM Director General William Lacy Swing, advocating a reinstatement of a program on the scale of Mare Nostrum. “All of us, especially the E.U. and the world’s powers, can no longer sit on the sidelines watching while this tragedy unfolds in slow motion.”

What happens to the migrants after they arrive?

Every refugee is entitled to asylum in Europe under the Common European Asylum System, which sets out a framework for their protection and rehabilitation. However, several countries are unable to implement this framework effectively with the sudden and ever-increasing influx of illegal migrants. There have been allegations of mistreatment of asylum-seekers in the past, and measures to deal with the problem include a proposal to create offshore detention centers in so-called “third countries” like Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia. A large part of the effort is funded by the E.U.’s Asylum, Migration and Integration fund, which has set aside 3.137 billion euros for the period of 2014-2020.

Unfortunately, as this week’s events show, many perish before they can be even considered for asylum.

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