The illegal journeys made across the sea by migrants are invariably arduous and dangerous. For example, in the first few months of this year alone, thousands have died as they attempted to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa, seeking a better life in Europe.
But we should be thankful that the distance between North Africa and Europe is relatively short. The Italian island of Lampedusa lies about 100 miles from Libya, not that much further than the distance between Key West, Fla., and Cuba.
For those getting on smugglers boats in Southeast Asia, aiming to reach places like Malaysia and Thailand, the journeys cover a far larger distance. The map below, released this week by the International Organization for Migration, shows some of the rough routes taken by human traffickers' boats across the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea, the other major migrant crisis of the moment.
As you can see from the map, these are not short journeys – this is more like going from Cuba to Washington D.C. by boat than Cuba to Key West.
As IOM's latest report notes, this is only a snapshot of a complicated, completely unregulated movement that developed dramatically in the past few years and has seen 25,000 people make the journey in the first quarter of 2015. Those on the boats often end up spending around $2,000 a person on the journey, the report notes, and "non-payment can be fatal."
IOM is currently seeking $26 million to help some of the people involved in the sea-based trade, thousands of whom are thought to be still out at sea. “There is no doubt that these people have suffered unimaginably and for a protracted period,” Jeff Labovitz, IOM’s chief of mission for Thailand, said in a statement. “The number one priority is still to find and rescue those still at sea, whilst caring for those who have landed, many of whom are malnourished and traumatized.”
Sadly, the overland routes which these sea-based routes replaced after clampdowns may have been equally horrific: On Sunday, Malaysian authorities announced that they had uncovered mass graves and barbed wire pens at secret camps used by people smugglers.