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Italy shut down its search and rescue mission, Mare Nostrum – credited with saving the lives of more than 100,000 migrants – at the end of 2014 because other EU countries refused to pay for it. It was replaced with a smaller EU scheme – Triton – whose main focus is to patrol the bloc’s borders, after some countries argued that saving migrants encouraged more to come.
The International Organisation on Migration (IOM) fears that 2015 will be the deadliest year yet for migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean as boats carrying desperate refugees become increasingly overloaded. It said the number of arrivals in Europe is broadly the same but deaths are rising due to deteriorating conditions on board ships.
“More than 1,000 people died in less than 10 days and we are only at the start of the good season. It’s an emergency and it will get worse,” said Flavio Di Giacomo, an IOM spokesperson in Catania.
Sunday’s capsizing off Libya was the Mediterranean’s worst migrant disaster with up to 900 dead.
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Mapped: Migrant deaths attempting to reach Europe by sea since 2000