The patrols put in place by Italy and the European Union to rescue migrants in the Mediterranean Sea are also helping human traffickers get substantially richer, researchers at Italy's Palermo University have concluded. Professors Carlo Amenta and Paolo Di Betta, aided by Palermo Prosecutor Gery Ferrara - a lead investigator into the migrant smuggling trade - set out to investigate the phenomenon from an econometric point of view.
"Military patrol operations in the Mediterranean [...] have increased [migrant] arrivals, thus representing an incentive and an outside positive factor for the business of migrant traffickers," the academics say in a written presentation of their work, seen by German news agency dpa. By increasing the safety of sea crossings, the rescue missions make the services offered by traffickers more attractive, thus boosting their business, the researchers found.
Amenta said the research offered no policy recommendations, and certainly not stopping rescues at sea, but he personally thinks the EU should offer migrants legal entry ways in order to undercut human traffickers.
It is not the first time these sea missions have been blamed for encouraging migrant departures from Africa, but humanitarian organizations and EU institutions have always defended them, insisting that saving migrants' lives was a moral imperative. Meanwhile, Italy's coast guard said on Saturday it had picked up 1,348 migrants at sea in 11 rescue operations between Sicily and North Africa, bringing the total number of people saved over the past three days to more than 3,000.