Between 1 January and 20 April 2015, there were about 18 times as many refugee deaths in the Mediterranean Sea compared to the same period last year, according to initial estimates from the International Organization for Migration: 1,750 people died trying to reach Europe from North Africa and Turkey. In 2014, more than 3,400 people are thought to have died attempting the crossing. Over the past 18 months, Italian ships have rescued more than 200,000 people in the Mediterranean Sea.
While there has been a significant number of departures from Tunisia, the scale of sea migration from Libya grew exponentially in the second half of 2014 and the trend continues into 2015. Since political instability in Libya escalated into outright conflict in 2014, there has been a massive increase in the number of people attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. Numbers spiked in the first months of 2015.
Contributing factors include increasing humanitarian needs in Libya, tighter border restrictions for third-country nationals trying to enter Libya’s neighbouring countries, and impunity for smugglers.