In the aftermath of Sunday's sea disaster, which killed more than 800 would-be migrants off the coast of Libya, European officials were quick to blame traffickers for recklessly crashing the overcrowded boat.
Speaking about the smugglers in a joint statement on Monday, three European premiers, Britain's David Cameron, Italy's Matteo Renzi, and Malta's Joseph Muscat, offered that the "highest priority has to be action to disrupt their activities." The reality is a bit more complicated.
Almost 2,000 migrants have perished in the Mediterranean while trying to reach Europe since the start of 2015, a staggering number when "compared to fewer than 100 deaths by the end of April last year, a period when a similar number attempted the crossing," reported Reuters.
What's changed? Mare Nostrum, the Italian search-and-rescue program that scanned the Libyan coast looking for smuggling ships, was scrapped last fall in favor of Triton, a comparatively meek (and cheaper) European Union program that patrols the waters near Europe. With traffickers sending migrants on boats not fit for sea and sometimes forcing passengers onto small rubber ships, the coasts of Europe rarely even appear on the horizon before tragedy strikes.