Last week, the European Council held an emergency summit to address the growing refugee crisis in the Mediterranean Sea. This was triggered by an April 19 shipwreck off the coast of Libya that killed over 800 migrants, most of whom were from sub-Saharan Africa. Not even a week earlier, 400 migrants were killed in another shipwreck on the same route. Estimates suggest up to 1,700 people have died in the sea since the beginning of the year.
Understandably, there are widespread calls—most notably by the government of frontline country Italy—for an effective response. So far these calls have focused on what leaders can do in the Mediterranean itself, and the larger task of addressing the root causes of the increasing numbers of refugees making the crossing has been conspicuously absent.
There were certainly some significant outcomes from the recent summit. While it did not go as far as restoring the search and rescue functions of Mare Nostrum—the Italian operation that saved more than 140,000 lives between October 2013 and November 2014—it did triple the funding to that program’s border protection-focused replacement, the European Union-administered Triton from three to nine million euros (9.8 million USD) a month, effective immediately and stretching well into 2016. Read more