The Mediterranean Sea is still the principal corridor for migrants trying to enter the European Union, and Italy is in effect its front door. Hundreds of thousands of people have attempted this risky maritime route, often paying a deadly toll, including well before the migrant and refugee crisis of 2015.
Between 1993 and 2018, around 27,000 people drowned at sea in the Mediterranean. But war, desperation and the hope for a better future keep pushing migrants and refugees from the Middle East and North Africa, and further afield, to embark on this perilous voyage.
The coronavirus pandemic hasn’t deterred them, either. But it has changed the situation for the worse on the other side: Since COVID-19 started ravaging Italy, the Italian government has tried to close more of the country off to migrants.