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Europe's Fix Backfires: 6,500 Refugees Saved off Italy in 1 Day

  • A dinghy overcrowded by migrants and refugees is seen drifting off the Libyan coast in the Mediterranean Sea Aug. 20, 2016.

    A dinghy overcrowded by migrants and refugees is seen drifting off the Libyan coast in the Mediterranean Sea Aug. 20, 2016. | Photo: Reuters

Published 30 August 2016

The Italian Coast Guard rescued the shocking number as arrivals through the Mediterranean increase amid a failed EU-Turkey deal to deter Greece arrivals.

Some 6,500 refugees were saved off the Libyan coast in 40 separate rescue missions on Monday alone, the Italian Coast Guard confirmed on Twitter, in what marks one of the largest influxes of refugees in a single day in 2016 and a huge blow to Europe’s attempts to solve the refugee crisis.

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The refugees were packed aboard scores of boats, many of them flimsy rubber dinghies that become dangerously unstable in high seas. Most are believed to have traveled from the continent of Africa.

The news further highlights the utter failure of Europe to control the influx of refugees.

More than a million people arrived in Europe in 2015, five times more than the year before. The International Organization for Migration, or IOM, said more than 3,770 refugees were killed trying to make the risky trip to Europe in 2015.

A controversial agreement between Turkey and the European Union this year which has resulted in the crackdown on migrants and refugees arriving from Turkey to Greece via the Aegean Sea appears to have worsened the plight of many asylum seekers, who are now being pushed to travel the far risker option of crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa.

With more than four months until the end of the year, an estimated 2,726 men, women and children have died over the same period trying to make the journey. The United Nations says more than 270,000 people have arrived in Europe through Italy and Greece this year.

The numbers indicate that arrivals this year are destined to be significantly lower than the previous year, but the loss of life ratio is set to be even higher than 2015 as this year's toll is just 1,000 shy of 2015’s total.

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The news Monday comes after about 1,100 migrants were rescued from boats in the Strait of Sicily on Sunday. Thousands more refugees are also expected to sail this week due to favorable weather conditions.

Italy has been on the front line of Europe's refugee crisis for three years, with more than 400,000 people having successfully made the voyage to Italy from North Africa since the beginning of 2014, fleeing violence and poverty. Meanwhile, countries such as the United Kingdom have agreed to settle just 20,000 by 2020, a number activist groups have slammed as paltry for a nation of its size and resources.

Despite this, the United Kingdom’s vote to leave Europe, known as Brexit, was successful on the basis of an explicitly xenophobic and anti-refugee rhetoric. In France, the far-right Popular Front party has made major advances in the local elections thanks to its anti-immigrant and Islamophobic campaigns.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic real estate billionaire Donald Trump secured the Republican presidential nomination using the promise of a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. and building a wall to stop Mexicans from entering the country.

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