- A wooden fishing boat packed with more than 280 migrants capsized off the Greek island of Lesbos on Wednesday, in what Reuters calls "one of the largest maritime disasters since a massive refugee influx [to Europe] began this year."
- Eight people, five of whom were children, are confirmed dead from drowning. Though about 240 were rescued, 34 people are still missing; the search effort remains underway. The migrants' country of origin is still unclear.
- The disaster began, according to Human Rights Watch's Peter Bouckaert, when the upper deck of the boat "collapsed on top of those packed below." Witnesses told Greek state television that smugglers had forced migrants onto the doomed boat at gunpoint, as it was clear the rickety vessel couldn't support the weight of 280-plus people.
- The whole thing illustrates that while Europe's migrant crisis may no longer be at the top of American headlines, it's still a massive, massive problem that won't go away — and that Europe needs to find a better solution.
Europe's refugee policy is a mess
Wednesday's capsize isn't an isolated events: Indeed, that same day, eight other people drowned in separate crossing incidents. This year, 3,257 people in total have died trying to cross the Mediterranean, according to the International Organization for Migration. That's roughly one out of every 218 migrants attempting to cross.
And it's likely to get even more dangerous. Traditionally, migration across the Mediterranean slows around this time of year due to more dangerous weather and sea conditions. Indeed, intense winds appear to have flipped the fishing boat off Lesbos after the deck collapse.
Smugglers, however, are reportedly offering discounted rates designed to target poor migrants and penniless refugees — underlining the basic problem that when there's so much demand from people fleeing places like Syria, even dangerous weather might not deter people from making the sea crossing.
Which is, of course, the basic problem: Tons of people want to get into Europe because their living conditions elsewhere are miserable, and they're willing to take huge risks to do it. Simply keeping them all out by force isn't an option, as much as European states may try by building border fences. So Europe needs to figure out some way to manage the crisis in a safer, more humane way.
Ultimately, that means either letting truly gigantic numbers of migrants get into Europe safely — a step many European leaders oppose vociferously, to say the least — or figuring out some way to give them a better life in another place.
"The only way people will be persuaded not to go to the Aegean Islands or Italy or Spain is if there’s a realistic chance that they can get humanitarian aid, feed themselves, have their kids educated and work elsewhere," Demetrios Papademetriou, president of Migration Policy Institute Europe, told Time. "They need to be persuaded that they will be resettled in massive numbers — at least half a million people a year — as part of a global program with Europe leading the way."