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hailing from sub-Saharan African countries, most migrants traveling the Mediterranean route to Europe are set afloat in dangerously overcrowded and often unseaworthy boats by people smugglers in Libya.Moreover, the scope and capacity of the 12 NGO SAR boats voluntarily operating humanitarian missions in the central Mediterranean is limited. They can only work in international waters, 12 miles from the shores of Libya – a distance many of the migrant boats fail to reach. Volunteer rescuers on the Aquarius generally deal with rubber boats carrying around 140 people but, with the wooden boats, the figure is sometimes over 700, all of whom have to be transferred via the SAR vessel's two small rescue boats in operations that can take hours to complete.In previous years, people smugglers in Libya generally restricted movement of migrants to the summer months of warm weather and calm seas, but this year high demand for passage to Europe means, as of November, hundreds of people are still being packed into unseaworthy vessels on any fall day when sea conditions are auspicious.On the inflatable dinghies more often favored by people smugglers in Libya, up to 150 men, women, and children are crammed into boats designed to hold a dozen people at most.
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