In November 2013, one month after a tragedy in which 366 migrants died when just one boat sank off the Italian island of Lampedusa, Italian authorities set up the lifesaving Mare Nostrum operation. It lasted exactly one year before being disbanded because of EU and Italian government pressure. Now a combination of Italian coast guard and EU Frontex boats patrol the waters and continue to pluck migrants from the sea. Many of these migrants are shipped from the northern Libyan ports of Tripoli, Benghazi and Misrata and ferried over by highly organized smuggling operations whose communication tentacles spread deep into the African continent and beyond into Syria, Gaza and other parts of the Middle East.
We do not see the migration and trafficking ending anytime soon. It is a multibillion-dollar business that is only getting bigger, and we cannot sit by and watch thousands drown every year.
Chris Catrambone who operates Migrant Offshore Aid Ship
Now that the Mare Nostrum operation has ended and rescue funds are diminishing, it will be even more difficult for those seeking to escape the horrors of wars and violence. as the spring of 2015 approaches and the North African smuggling operations ramp up again, the already overstretched coast guard and rescue services await an impending influx that may well exceed the numbers that arrived in 2014.