July 13, 2017 6:12 AM EDT

More than 83,000 migrants arrived in Italy by sea in the first six months of this year, and the country is turning to desperate measures to cope.


A 2016 E.U.-Turkey accord and border closures along the Balkans route helped stem the movement of refugees traveling via the eastern Mediterranean to Greece. The flow then shifted to the crossing from Libya to Italy. The number of arrivals in Italy in 2017 is on course to beat last year’s record total of 181,000.


In response, Italy has lately targeted rescue charities and other NGOs, threatening to close its ports to rescue ships and bar them from entering Libyan waters. Rights groups say NGOs are being made scapegoats.


The E.U. has promised Italy extra funds and plans to strengthen Libya’s coast guard but nixed a proposal by Rome for other European ports to open their gates to rescue boats. As in the 2015 migrant crisis, consensus yet again seems hard to find. Meanwhile, the number of dead and missing off Libya so far this year has passed 2,300–another grim milestone in Europe’s most intractable crisis.


This appears in the July 24, 2017 issue of TIME.

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