In 2013 the deaths of 366 migrants at sea off the coast of the Italian island Lampedusa caught the headlines. Last week another 300 died. Last year, it was an estimated total of 3,500.
European governments, including the British one, are opposed to rescue missions on the grounds that this creates a "pull-factor" encouraging more people to make the trip. How does that claim stack up? We now have the first month's data since the end of the Italian Mare Nostrum rescue mission.
In an interview with Mark Goldberg, John Dalhuisen of Amnesty International cites UNHCR figures that there were 60% more sea arrivals in Italy in January 2015 than January 2014, despite the widely publicised ending of the sea rescue mission. John cites this as evidence that it is push factors, such as the war in Syria, that have led to the large increase in refugees and migrants attempting the crossing, not "pull factors". You might want a few more data points if you wanted to be scientific about this, but 60% is a large increase, and those data points are human lives we are standing by and letting drown. I'm not sure this particular experiment would pass an ethical review board.