OVER the past 20 years, it is estimated that somewhere in the region of 25,000 migrants and refugees have lost their lives crossing the Mediterranean Sea to reach the shores of Europe. In 2014, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), about 200,000 people, including 15,000 unaccompanied children, made the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean. The majority arrived from ports in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt. This was a dramatic increase from the 60,000 that were estimated to have arrived in Italy in 2013. 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 and many lives were saved. Following new restrictions and an international outcry at the numbers crossing and being rescued, in late 2017 the EU policy-makers, led by Italy, has had a dramatic shift in immigration strategy leading to almost complete ban on maritime rescues in 2019. 

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