Migration routes to Europe are closing one after the other.
Barriers of the Spanish enclaves in Moroccan land. Agreement between Europe and Turkey. Closure of the borders of the neighbors of Greece. Barbed wire in Hungary, Macedonia, Bulgaria.
Only one road remains “open”: the most dangerous, the longest, the one in the central Mediterranean, known as the Canal of Sicily. The migrants are taken off the beaches of Libya, sometimes Egypt, hoping to reach Italy. According to the International Office for Migration (IOM), at least 2,765 people drowned between 1st January and 15th September of this year. Others, doubtless, swallowed by the Mediterranean, will remain forever unknown.
During the same period, 129,126 people were rescued and landed in Italy.
That road has changed. The smugglers got organized. Almost no more of these large wooden boats, scrap trawlers. Now they have white inflatable 10 meters long boats, made in China, infinitely more fragile, with the soft bottom craftily stiffened by large screwed planks. They are not designed for sea navigation, bending under the number of passengers – 120, 130 -, breaking in the middle. They leave without water and food with very few petrol cans and often a mobile phone to call the rescue. They have no chance of reaching Lampedusa alone, the nearest Italian island to Libya.
The European military operation called Sophia, launched in June 2015, aims to monitor and identify canoes. Committed ships save lives, even if it is not their primary mission.
At the same time, NGOs have chartered their own boats whose mission is to save lives.
The photos and testimonies presented were taken and collected aboard the Aquarius, chartered by SOS Mediterranean in March and April 2016.