Libya Shipwreck Tragedy Highlights Plight Of African Migrants Who Risk Everything To Live

05/01/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

More than 200 African migrants are feared dead after three boats capsized off the coast of Libya Friday. The 23 people who were rescued relayed that they hoped to reach the shores of Italy to establish a better life away from the searing desert and their war-torn countries, reports the BBC.

I am from Eritrea. Life there - there is no freedom.

You have no right to do anything. The only way is to risk your life.

I knew I might not survive [the journey], but it was the only way.

I didn't think - "I need to come to Europe". I thought - "I need to save my life". That is the only way.

That migrant told BBC that this was his second attempt to get to Europe, where he says at least he would have the freedom to go from city to city; a right he lacks in Africa.

UNHCR officials say this time of year marks the beginning of the migrant season from Africa to Europe, where countries have cracked down on migrants and crafted stricter immigration policies that prevent migrants from achieving this better life they so desire, reports Al Jazeera English.

"This tragic incident illustrates, once again, the dangers faced by people caught in mixed irregular movements of migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean and elsewhere which every year cost thousands of lives."

The deaths come as Italy and Libya are planning a joint sea patrol in May in a bid to halt the influx of migrants trying to reach European countries.

The Australian reports that nearly 37,000 migrants landed on the coast of Italy last year, with most of them landing on Lampedusa, in Sicily.

In response to this 75 percent increase in migration from 2007, Italy and Libya just signed an agreement to stop this migration with increased patrols of the waters between the countries and Italy, known already for having one of the strictest immigration policies on the books, is looking to stop the immigration problem once and for all, reports Voice of America News.

Minister Maroni says an agreement is in place with Libya that envisages the start of joint Italian-Libyan patrols in front of the Libyan coast on May 15. He added that on that day he expects the flow of migrants coming to Italy from Libya will stop and the problem will be resolved.

Below is a look at other incidents involving migrants traveling the Mediterranean Sea, reported by the Associated Press. Read more here .

_ Jan. 1, 2009: Italian authorities rescue more than 450 would-be migrants off the southern island of Lampedusa. Authorities said the 457 people, many from Africa, were traveling on three separate boats and were intercepted overnight.

_ July 14, 2008: The Italian coast guard finds the bodies of three migrants who drowned after leaping from a motorized dinghy as the coast guard approached. Another 10 migrants were missing.

_ June 29, 2008: According to Italian news reports, seven migrants were feared dead after the makeshift boat that was carrying them to Europe capsized in Libyan waters about 150 miles (240 kilometers) southeast of the Italian island of Lampedusa.

_ June 17, 2008: Egypt's ambassador to Libya says a survivor told him that a fishing vessel packed with about 150 illegal migrants sank in the Mediterranean Sea near the Libyan coast earlier in June, with only two people surviving.

_ Oct. 28, 2007: At least 15 migrants drowned in the waters off the Italian coast in two separate incidents, according to Italian news reports. In one incident, a boat carrying more than 120 people ran aground about 200 yards (180 meters) off the Calabrian coast.

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