UK & World News
Syrian Refugee Rescue Caught On Film
Illegal immigrants are dying in the Mediterranean in record numbers because criminal gangs know that rich northern European countries such as the UK are too scared to address the issue of international migration because of domestic politics.
As European leaders meet this week to discuss demands for help from frontline countries like Malta, Sky News has obtained exclusive pictures of the moment hundreds of Syrians are left swimming for their lives over a hundred miles from shore.
Mediterranean countries say the whole European Union has to do more and must ignore local politics to help genuine refugees.
There is nothing more scary that being in heavy waters in a rubber dinghy when you are fleeing a war-torn country and you are already completely exhausted.
For refugees and illegal migrants that is normal. Life is basically terrible.
Malta, Spain and Italy are trying to deal with this daily problem.
The system is not perfect and to be frank they are not being as vigilant as they could be because they cannot really cope with what is going on.
This is a huge international problem that has been going on for years - but nobody so far has done anything significant to stop it.
Sky News obtained a remarkable series of videos from the Maltese government that show for the first time an entire rescue.
The migrants' boat has been shot at by Libyan gunmen who are traffickers and have not been paid off.
Within hours the boat either capsizes or sinks, with Syrian migrants dumped into the sea.
By chance a Maltese spotter plane sees them and a rescue mission, lasting more than 20 hours, begins.
The spotter plane drops a life raft that gives the survivors a point to aim for. They swim in their dozens to try to find something to hold onto.
It will take over an hour of treading water before the rescue boats arrive. Many people die in this time.
Patrol boats and launch vessels pick the survivors from the sea. This is a joint venture between the Maltese and the Italian navy.
Men, women and children are transferred from the rubber boats to the safety of the patrol vessels.
Among them, a little girl and her father clutching one another survived. Her twin sister has died; her mother, his pregnant wife, perished trying to save the girl.
They know nothing of this as they stand on the rescue ship deck being dried. As with all these disasters many families are split forever in the rescue.
On shore the Syrian migrants wait in a detention centre for news of family members who have simply disappeared. A man cries in anguish and writes on a shoe box: "Where are my two children?"
A translator says he does not know if they are dead or not.
A doctor represents the people in an emotional appeal for more information. I speak to him quietly. I ask why a paediatrician is here, risking this dreadful trip.
"We have no choice, Stuart, you know that," he says. "It is too dangerous in Syria so I decided to take my family to somewhere safe.
"But this has been terrible. Worse than I ever imagined."
I ask if he would do it again.
"Yes," he says. "There is no choice."
These are not work-shy foreigners looking for benefits. These are refugees.