Around 200 people drowned in the Mediterranean this week after a migrant boat headed to Europe capsized near Libya, the UN refugee agency said Thursday.
More than 2,100 other migrants have already died this summer making the treacherous voyage from Libya to Europe, hoping for a better life. But the incident Wednesday night is the believed to be the deadliest so far; 400 of the 600 passengers were rescued and 25 bodies were recovered, but the remainder are feared dead.
Migrant smugglers have made a habit of packing rickety boats full of more passengers than they’re capable of carrying, then waiting for the Italian Coast Guard to rescue the migrants and take them to a European refugee camp, the New York Times reports. But smugglers in charge of the boat that capsized Wednesday were extraordinarily reckless, packing around 600 migrants onto a boat meant to carry no more than 40 or 50, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
Survivors said the boat capsized when migrants saw a rescue ship in the distance and rushed to one side of the boat, tipping it into the water, according to the agency. The photo above shows migrants in the water before they were rescued.
More than 200,000 migrants have crossed the Mediterranean to get to Europe this summer, and even those who have survived shipwrecks say the chance to emigrate is worth the risk. Political instability in Libya in the wake of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s 2011 ousting has attracted migrants from around Africa and the Middle East to the country, which has a long Mediterranean coastline that is now under-policed.