About 6,055 migrants and refugees were rescued and 22 found dead making the crossing between Libya and Europe yesterday, Libyan and Italian officials have confirmed.
Of the fatalities, the Italian Coastguard told Reuters that nine had died making the crossing, while Libyan officials confirmed that 11 bodies had washed up on the coast east of Tripoli, while a further two migrants had drowned when their boat sank off the coast of Sabratha.
One ship from the Italian coast guard rescued approximately 725 migrants crammed onto a single rubber boat, one of some 20 rescue operations carried out during the day.
According to estimates collated by the International Organisation for Migration, (IOM) there are currently thought to be anywhere between 700,000 and 1 million migrants currently in Libya. Of those, the majority are reported to come from Egypt, Niger, Sudan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Syria, and Mali. All are said to be subject to arbitrary arrest by militias operating within the area, with the IOM reporting that many are also open to detention for indefinite periods of time, bonded labor, harassment and general exploitation.
In interviews with the Guardian last year, people smugglers in Libya told reporters that the price of making the crossing depended largely upon an individual’s country of origin. At that time, the paper reported, a sub-Saharan African was expected to pay “no more than $800 or $1,000. A Syrian would pay no more than $2,500. A Moroccan no more than €1,500”. Though no accurate figures are available for this year, last year’s data is enough to make a reasonable estimate of the profits available to potential people smugglers.
Earlier this year, Italian authorities began to suspect the involvement of the Islamic State, (Daesh) in Libya’s lucrative people smuggling market. In August, Justice Minister Andrea Orlando told a parliamentary committee, “From the information available, there is an investigation underway focused on whether representatives of ISIS (Islamic State) have crucial roles in controlling and managing migrant flows to Italy.”