Hundreds of people may have died last week in the Mediterranean, after a boat overloaded with migrants, including many children, capsized and sank. It was one of the deadliest migrant disasters in years.

Please take a moment to read this article by my Times colleagues Christina Goldbaum and Zia Ur-Rehman, who traveled to Bandli, a small village in Pakistan near the Indian border, frequently shelled in the fighting over disputed territory in Kashmir, and the hometown of 28 of the passengers on the doomed ship. When hundreds of people die it can be difficult to comprehend the magnitude of the loss, but the article movingly describes the lives of two young cousins who drowned, and their family’s profound heartbreak in the wake of their loss.

The smugglers who stuffed hundreds of people onto the ship were apparently trying to reach Italy, most likely because Greece has hardened its borders in an effort to keep migrants from reaching its shores and seeking asylum. (Sometimes it has gone even further, violating international, Greek and European Union law by expelling people who had already reached Greek territory: In April, the Times published a video showing Greek authorities forcing a van full of migrants, including children and a 6-month-old infant, onto an inflatable raft and towing it into the middle of the Aegean Sea, then abandoning it.)

Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who was the prime minister of Greece from 2019 until the country’s first-round elections last month and is expected to win a renewed majority in the runoff this weekend, has claimed that his harsh treatment of migrants has built good will with the European Union. And, indeed, Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, said Greece’s border enforcement was Europe’s “shield,” because its harsh tactics prevent migrants from reaching E.U. territory. “This border is not only a Greek border, it is also a European border,” she said after Greece used tear gas to repel hundreds of people who were trying to cross over from Turkey.

The European Union has gone to even greater extremes to deter migrants. Frontex, the E.U. border agency, has used aerial surveillance to help the Libyan coast guard to intercept migrant boats, even though there is extensive evidence that Libya has systematically abused and tortured the migrants it captured. Frontex has claimed that the surveillance saved lives, but a report by Human Rights Watch found that it was done in service of the Libyan interceptions, rather than rescues by other boats in the area.

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