Desperate Crossing


IN THE CLOUDLESS EARLY HOURS OF JULY 27, two tiny fishing boats drifted across the Mediterranean Sea. Crammed aboard were 733 would-be migrants, including 59 children under the age of 5. Most were from the impoverished and despotically ruled northeast African nation of Eritrea.

They carried with them only biscuits and some plastic bottles of water, and few of them knew how to swim. None wore life jackets. They had pushed off from the Libyan shore at about midnight, along with a third boat that was now missing. Their destination was the Italian island of Sicily, 300 miles away.

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