More than 4,000 migrants were rescued by Italian and European naval forces in Mediterranean waters over the weekend, as the humanitarian crisis in the region continues to escalate.
On Friday, Italian officials said they recovered 17 bodies off the coast of Libya -- their identities and nationalities are still unknown, Reuters reported.
Those rescued on Saturday and Sunday came from the many war-torn countries in Africa and the Middle East.
The Mediterranean sea, which separates southern Europe from north Africa, has become one of the world's busiest human trafficking routes over the last few months, as thousands show a growing willingness to leave destroyed lives behind in search of a better future on European soil.
Most of the rickety boats they undertake the perilous journey on depart from war-ravaged Libya or politically unstable Egypt. Unscrupulous traffickers are reported to make hundreds of thousands of dollars per crossing.
As the death toll in the Mediterranean continues to increase, European officials have moved to mitigate the crisis. Last month, EU foreign and defense ministers gathered in Brussels and voted in favor of a military mission against the smugglers.
The mandate, with the United Nations consent, will allow EU forces to destroy — at sea — the boats used by traffickers in the perilous crossing.
However, European officials, wary of any further military involvement in the Middle East, have categorically ruled out the possibility of any boots on the ground in Libya.
One of the measures also being debated is the implementation of asylum seeker quotas to house an estimated 40,000 refugees from Syria and Eritrea over the next two years.
According to the proposal, out of those 40,000 migrants Germany would take in 8,763 (21.91%), France would take in 6,752 (16.88%), and Spain would take in 4,288 (10.72%).
The UK government, mindful of growing anti-immigration and anti-EU sentiment amongst the British electorate, has already said it won't take part in such a plan.
While European politicians struggle to figure out a way to remedy the crisis without antagonising voters at home, scores continue to die in Mediterranean waters -- so far this year 1,800 people have perished attempting the crossing.
Speaking to BuzzFeed News last month, Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) Director of Humanitarian Affairs Hernan Del Valle said the sheer number of fatalities is alarming.
"If you look at the numbers of people dying, the figures are higher than in some of the world's war zones."
Felipe Araujo is the overnight homepage editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Felipe Araujo at felipe.araujo@BuzzFeed.com.
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