Thousands of people fleeing conflict, persecution and violence are trying to reach safety in Europe. Others are escaping poverty. Many travel by sea. Despite the risks of the journey across the Mediterranean – which claimed 3,500 lives in 2014 – and despite bad weather conditions, the first three and half months of 2015 saw record numbers of refugees and migrants attempting to cross into Europe by sea, with over 21,000 arriving in Italy. Italy’s decision, in agreement with the European Union, to end the Italian Navy’s humanitarian search and rescue operation Mare Nostrum at the end of 2014, after it had saved tens of thousands of people at sea, has not had the deterrent effect some European governments had hoped for.
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