The boats were crammed with thousands of migrants hoping to make it to Italy and a better life. But when rescuers reached the vessels off the Libyan coast this week, what they found shocked even veterans of the migrant crisis, the New York Times reports. Aboard one fishing boat alone, at least 22 bodies lay in the hold, suffocated by a crush of panicked passengers, said Aris Messinis, an AFP photographer. His images show migrants crammed aboard scores of boats and rubber rafts. In one, a baby is plucked from the sea. "I've seen a lot of death, but not this thing," Messinis told the Times. "This is shocking and this is what makes you feel you are not living in a civilized world."
Good weather was cited as the reason for a surge of vessels attempting to cross from Libya into Italian waters this week. More than 11,000 migrants were saved by the Italian Coast Guard and aid workers, 6,000 on Monday alone, Reuters reports. There were 50 reported deaths, including the bodies aboard the overloaded fishing boat. Most of the 1,000 passengers on that craft were packed in the hold "just like a slavery boat," Laura Lanuza, of Spanish aid group Proactiva Open Arms, told the Times. So far this year, some 142,000 migrants from Nigeria, Somalia, and other African nations have reached Italy, with more than 3,000 deaths, per Reuters. (Read more migrant crisis stories.)