As I wrote in my comment piece on The Conversation, smuggling is not the cause of migration. It is ‘a reaction to borders control’, to use Hein de Haas‘ words, the symptom of an unfulfilled demand for migration that can’t find other legal routes, which would be safer and possibly also cheaper. This reminds me of the advert on citizenship planning for wealth ‘citizens of the world’ I saw on a transatlantic flight last August.
For someone seeking asylum and international protection, crossing a border without authorisation is often the only way for them to be able to claim asylum legally. Of course, not every migrant is a refugee.
The point is that immigration governance is not rocket science and it is not a zero-sum equation. There is no one-off solution that a single country or even the EU can take that would stop the arrival of boat migrants. Migration is the product of complex systemic (and historical) and personal factors, with relative wealth differentials being one of them. No single receiving country or group of countries is in control of all these factors. A few more boats patrolling the Mediterranean can certainly have an impacts on the routes pursued by smugglers who transport migrants and refugees but, for example, would not stop the exodus from Syria as it does little to solve the civil war. Instead, it can push smugglers and migrants to take even more risky routes and, as a result, increase the number of deaths at sea.
There is also a further more complex interaction that it is worth some consideration. The closure of legal immigration routes to the EU has taken away for many households in North Africa and more widely an important source of income, namely the remittances of young migrants sent abroad. Has this contributed to create the conditions for the social and political movements that have changed the face of North Africa and the Middle East? In an article for Forced Migration Review (FMR 39, 2012)I co-authored with Hein de Haas we discuss the interactions between migration and revolutions.