European media are reporting that the bodies of nearly 90 drowned would-be migrants have washed ashore near Zawiya, Libya after failing in their seaborne attempt to cross the Mediterranean into Europe.
January was also one of the deadliest on record for drownings: over 200, more than twice as many as the year before.
This is tragic beyond measure and, to some significant extent, avoidable. Various review and study groups, including a committee of the British House of Lords, have criticized the European Union's maritime interdiction strategy as a fundamental failure, and yet no steps have been taken to reform the strategy, which consists almost in its entirety of picking up boats and dinghies overflowing with migrants that are wallowing in the middle of the Med (having been towed there by unscrupulous smugglers who deliberately leave them to be found so that the EU's border force, Frontex, can complete the smuggling venture via rescue at sea) followed by transferring them to a resettlement camp in Italy or Greece.
Although Frontex is authorized to search and seize smuggling vessels, the smugglers are, of course, smart enough to know this, which is why they leave the migrants sitting in disposable craft to await their fate, hopeful of being picked up before the vessel overturns or sinks, or the occupants turn on one another to lighten the load by pitching the unfortunate overboard.
This tragedy has been going on for years now, and yet the EU remains clueless. They have tried negotiations with Turkey on one side of the waters and Libya on the other, but seem not to understand that in the first locale, their partner is both demanding and mercurial, and in the other, there is no viable government to deal with that is capable of putting a clamp down on the organized and freelance smugglers who are making a fortune out of someone else's misfortune.
In short, the EU member states seem to want someone else to do the dirty work of direct repatriation, instead of doing so themselves. Until they gather the intestinal fortitude to do so, the drownings continue unabated.
EU leaders seem incapable of connecting the clear cause-and-effect at work: As long as they are willing to act as surrogates who complete the smuggling scheme by landing aliens on European shores, intending migrants are going to be drawn by that magnet and continue making the journey; and smugglers will continue to enjoy access to large sums of money, as well as unparalleled power over those whom they victimize.