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Migrants and refugees stand on the deck of the rescue vessel after being rescued on the Mediterranean Sea, June 16, 2017.
Emilio Morenatti/AP
Citizenship

100 Migrants Drown in Deadliest Mediterranean Boat Disaster of the Year

At least 100 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean Sea after their boat failed on June 2, marking the deadliest sea crossing of the year in what has become the deadliest migration route in the world, according to the International Organization of Migrants (IOM).

After paying up to $1,100 each, more than 180 migrants set sail for Italy from Tunisia’s Kerkennah coast in a boat meant for around 75 to 90 people, according to CNN.

Within two hours, the boat began taking on water, and at 10:45 p.m. a distress signal was sent, according to Tunisia’s Interior Ministry. By the time the Tunisian coast guard and other rescue vessels arrived, scores of people had already died, and the survivors were brought to land.

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"Water was coming into the boat," Wael Ferjani, a Tunisian man who survived the wreck, told AFP. "Those who could escape fled, others drowned. We stayed there until almost 5 a.m., then fishermen came to help us, and then the army arrived."

At first, it was believed that 48 people had died, but the death toll climbed to at least 100 on Tuesday when it was learned that the majority of travelers were unaccounted for.

Most of the victims and survivors were Tunisian. Other travelers came from Cameroon, Mali, the Ivory Coast, Libya, and Morocco, according to the IOM.

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The survivors are currently receiving emergency assistance and psychological support, and efforts to locate and identify the remaining bodies are currently underway.

“There are no words to describe this tragedy," Lorena Lando, IOM Chief of Mission in Tunisia, said in a press release. "Behind these numbers, men, women, and children have lost their lives while pursuing an uncertain dream. Our thoughts are with families and loved ones to whom we present our sincere condolences and assure of our most absolute solidarity.”

The Mediterranean Sea has a been prominent route for unauthorized entry into Europe for several decades.

The journey, however, has become increasingly perilous in recent years as the number of migrants taking this trip has surged and the methods for travel have become more fraught.

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More than 3,000 people have died making this trip every year for the past four years.

Migrants and refugees from across the Middle East and Africa seek this route for a variety of reasons, including to escape persecution, conflict, famines, droughts, economic instability, and lack of opportunity, according to the the UN.

The European Union has tried to restrict unauthorized migration across the body of water by paying countries such as Libya to deter migrants.

The IOM argues that this strategy has only motivated migrants to take greater risks, making death more likely, and has even led to the creation of slave markets. Instead, the organization argues that resources should be allocated to treating the root causes of migration and assisting migrants who do make the journey.

Read More: Why the Fall in Migrants Arriving to Italy by Sea in 2017 Isn't All Good News

Otherwise, tragedies will keep happening.

"[There is] an urgent need for global answers to protect the lives and basic human dignity of people on the move,” Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said in a statement. "We cannot keep silent as the massacre on the sea continues.”

Global Citizen campaigns to help refugees and migrants and you can take action on this issue here.