Editorial | Shipwreck in Italy carrying migrants shows that European politicians must take migration seriously


AP Photo/Valeria Ferraro

People take part in a candlelight vigil for the victims of a migrant boat that broke apart in rough seas, in Crotone, southern Italy, on Feb. 27.

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

About 60 migrants died and at least 30 are missing after a ship carrying more than 200 people from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Iran sank on Sunday. Migrants were attempting to escape unstable political environments and reach Europe when their ship crashed into rocks during rough weather, sinking off the coast of southern Italy.

As the world becomes increasingly politically unstable, more people are forced to leave their homes and seek refuge elsewhere — no matter the cost. This shipwreck demonstrates just how desperate people are to escape their home countries, and European countries must become better equipped to combat migrant smuggling across the Mediterranean Sea to stop these tragedies. 

In Italy, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni ran on a strict platform to keep migrants out of the country, proposing naval blockades for ships coming from North Africa. Many European politicians have pushed similar anti-immigration policies, making it more difficult for migrants to flee safely. Within the European Union, 21 out of 28 countries in 2015 cited immigration as the most pressing issue affecting the continent.

Where does this leave migrants who have nowhere else to go?

Unfortunately, this shipwreck isn’t the first time that migrants have risked their lives trying to escape violence or political instability in their home countries.

Just last year, experts estimated that 2,062 migrants died while crossing the Mediterranean Sea and thousands more have died since 2014. In Sunday’s shipwreck, 12 children died — a heart-wrenching number. The journey across the Mediterranean is dangerous, yet migrants are willing to risk their lives and their children’s lives for the chance of a better future. 

Migration isn’t an issue that will go away — in most experts’ estimates, current levels of migration is just the beginning. Some estimates suggest that there could be 1.2 billion climate refugees by 2050. The amount of migrants has increased in the past 50 years substantially with no signs of stopping. 

Countries must prepare to take in more people through safer methods, such as increasing the reach of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency who help save migrants traveling in unsafe conditions, in order to prevent tragedies such as Sunday’s shipwreck.