GENEVA - The International Organization for Migration reports a sharp increase in the number of sub-Saharan Africans making the dangerous sea journey from Libya to Italy. But the organization says a deadly new trend is developing on board the boats that smuggle these migrants.
The International Organization for Migration calls death by asphyxiation on board smugglers’ boats sailing from Libya to Italy a horrific new trend. The latest incidence came to light in the last few days when more than 1,000 migrants were rescued at sea and brought to two different Italian seaports.
IOM spokesmen, Itayi Viriri says among those brought ashore by rescuers were five bodies — three women and two men from Sub-Saharan Africa. They apparently had died from asphyxiation during the journey.
“The vessels that they are being put on are quite overcrowded. So, whereas normally you hear of migrants drowning in large numbers, now we are seeing more and more being squashed in these vessels that they are being put into,” he said.
Nothing stopping smuggling gang in Libya
Viriri says these migrants are extremely vulnerable because there is no real authority in Libya to stop the smuggling gangs from putting people on overcrowded boats.
IOM estimates nearly 9,000 migrants have arrived by sea in Italy since the beginning of the year. It says most making this dangerous crossing originate from Sub-Saharan Africa, in particular Nigeria, Gambia, and Mali.
Viriri tells VOA African migrants pay the smugglers between $600 and $800, which is about half the amount paid by Syrians and other migrants from the Middle East, Bangladesh or elsewhere. He says Africans suffer discrimination as a consequence of this unequal pay scale.
“In those cases, where you have other nationalities, other than Sub-Saharan nationals—yes, based on how much they pay, they are put in the hold and those who pay more are put up on, maybe what could be safer, upper decks,” he said.
IOM says the exodus of refugees and migrants into Europe continues unabated. According to the latest figures, more than 120,000 have arrived in Greece and Italy so far this year. This far exceeds last year’s figure of 100,000 arrivals by June.