Desperate passengers forced to abandon boat ‘filled with children’ off Libya

Human traffickers send boats to Italy loaded with migrants hoping to escape poverty and violent conflict in Africa. Meanwhile, Europeans pick up other refugees — including children — on the high seas. But rescue missions, while important, are rare, especially compared to human trafficking itself. Many of the boats that arrive in Italy aren’t taken into custody because they don’t meet strict specifications for rescue vessels, such as holding enough capacity to turn the engine off for a full stint at sea. Others are never seen again after they arrive.

The boat used to smuggle children into Italy since 2014 was abandoned off Libya on Tuesday. It is one of a series of abandoned boats to disappear into the Mediterranean. Last month, a boat made up of African migrants who didn’t have enough space to hold everyone fled Italy onto the Mediterranean. The effort to rescue the migrants had to be aborted because a boat holding the rescued migrants was also rejected and scattered on the sea. The incident sparked accusations of a “pushback,” during which Italian officials prevented other boats from carrying migrants in the hope of deterring more from arriving.

A photo, showing the reek of rotting food and human excrement on the abandoned boat, may only serve to put a human face on the problem. Many refugees arrive in Europe to be left out in the sun, according to the U.N. International Organization for Migration. They become trapped in the worst conditions possible in European detention centers. The governments who resettle them often deport them back to their homeland or shut them out altogether, without providing any other support. Often, they are given no choice but to return home themselves, and families are torn apart.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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