A confidential German government security report has warned that more than six-and-a-half million migrants are waiting to make the journey across the Mediterranean to seek asylum in Europe.
The classified document, which has been seen by German daily Bild, claims the number of would-be asylum seekers waiting in countries such as Libya, Jordan and Turkey for their chance to cross the Med has risen by 12% from 5.95 million to 6.6 million in the last three months.
According to the report, more than one million migrants are currently biding their time close to the northern shores of Libya, where ruthless people smuggling gangs launch unseaworthy boats crammed full of desperate refugees and economic migrants that regularly sink before getting anywhere near their supposed destination.
A further one million migrants are said to be waiting for passage to Europe in Egypt, while hundreds of thousands more have reached countries including Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco while on their journey towards a perceived better life across the Mediterranean.
Over three million migrants looking to reach Europe are currently living in refugee camps in Turkey, which has made a deal with the EU to stop people smugglers using its shores to launch attempts to reach Greece by sea, the document said.
While many of the migrants mentioned in the report have fled conflict zones in the Middle East, others have travelled north from countries such as Bangladesh, Gambia, Guinea, the Ivory Coast and Nigeria.
Details of the report emerged a day before more than 30 migrants, many of them children, drowned just off the Libyan coast after a people smuggling boat they were traveling on capsized.
More than 200 migrants without life jackets were said to have fallen into the sea after the vessel tipped over, likely due to a combination of poor weather conditions and the fact that people rushed over to one side of the ship after seeing rescuers approach.
In all, 34 dead bodies were pulled from the ocean.
“It’s not a scene from a horror movie, it’s a real-life tragedy that is taking place today at the gates of Europe,” Chris Catrambone, who founded search and rescue charity Migrant Offshore Aid Station (Moas), told the AFP news agency.
Taking to his Twitter account, Catrambone posted distressing images of dead bodies being pulled from the ocean and loaded onto a ship operated by Moas, where they were placed in white body bags and piled up on deck.
Over 7,000 migrants have been saved from people smuggling boats off the coast of Libya in the last week alone, despite the fact the EU is helping to train local coastguards to stop traffickers launching migrant-packed vessels from the country’s shores.