The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimates that 340 migrants have drowned in four major shipwrecks over the course of the week, bringing the reported total for November so far to 546. This compares with 141 for the entire month in 2015 and 22 in 2014.
All in all, the IOM puts the death toll for 2016 at over 4,600 so far, making it the deadliest year on record already, with several bitter winter weeks still ahead.
These unprecedented numbers have been realised despite an expensive and controversial deal between Turkey and the EU on stemming the flow of illegal immigration, which looks set to unravel now that a crackdown on political opponents by the Turkish premier has (seemingly) killed plans for Turkish citizens to be given visa-free access to the Schengen Area.
The IOM lists the top eight countries of origin for migrants arriving in Europe as Nigeria, Eritrea, Sudan, Gambia, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Somalia and Mali – which should come as shock to members of the public who have been led to believe that most migrants come from war-torn countries in the Middle East.
The Migrant Offshore Aid Station, a Malta-based NGO, indicates that the death toll has been rising because EU measures have failed to make any impact on smuggler-boats heading to the continent from Libya, shattered by a NATO coalition driven by David Cameron and Barack Obama in 2011.
A vast, criminal network of people-smugglers, which furnishes Islamic State terrorists with hundreds of millions of dollars in protection money, now controls much of this failed state’s coastline, launching smuggler-boats across the Mediterranean in increasingly large waves and increasingly unseaworthy vessels to overwhelm local patrol vessels.
The migrant crisis was originally triggered by the European Union implementing outmoded asylum rules which allow anyone able to reach EU soil or waters to make a claim. This resulted in large numbers of migrants attempting to reach EU territory, first via the relatively safe overland routes to the Spanish exclaves of Ceuta and Melilla.
When Brussels sealed off this route by building barbed wire fortifications around the towns and paying brutal North African police forces to keep migrants away from them, smuggler-boats became the best viable option.
Tony Abbott, the former Prime Minister of Australia whose decisive action to stop and turn away smuggler-boats ended deadly drownings in the Pacific at virtually a single stroke, has urged European leaders to follow his example for years, to no avail.
Mr Abbott recently warned that, in addition to incentivising more lethal sea crossings, Europe’s weak response to the migrant crisis was beginning to take on the appearance of a “peaceful invasion”, with many migrants “coming not with gratitude, but with grievance, and with the insistence that Europe should make way for them”.
He also echoed interim UKIP leader Nigel Farage in warning that the influx represents a significant security risk, with “soldiers of the caliphate bent on mayhem” using the crisis as an opportunity to infiltrate the West.