Humanitarian disaster: UN estimates more than 800 dead after fleeing failed state of Libya

The tragic cost from the US-NATO coup against Moammar Qaddafi continues to mount. Over 800 refugees drowned when their boat capsized off the Libyan coast, bringing the total for April of those lost at sea to well over 1100 and possibly as high as 1500:

The United Nations refugee agency estimated Tuesday that as many as 850 migrants had gone to their deaths in a boat capsizing earlier this week off the coast of Libya, even as the ship’s captain and a crew member were taken into custody on criminal charges.

The U.N. estimate would confirm fears that the disaster was the single worst involving the flow of migrants seeking to reach Europe across the Mediterranean Sea.

But Italian prosecutors gave a broader range on the possible death toll, saying that interviews with survivors placed the number of victims anywhere between 400 and 950. …

Coupled with previous fatalities during the first half of the month, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimate would put the migrant death toll for April so far well over 1,000 — making it “the worst month ever recorded,” according to Adrian Edwards, spokesman for the agency.

Italian authorities arrested two of the crew, and CNN reports that most of the dead were locked in the hold:

That’s likely the reason that the two crew members have been arrested. That’s a particularly nasty example of the kind of human trafficking that has erupted in the failed state of Libya, especially as the poorer people trapped there attempt to escape. Tens of thousands have taken to the Mediterranean in flight from the terrorists who now have what used to be Libya in their grip. Some of those refugees are just as extreme as those who have been left behind; last week, 12 Christians were murdered by being thrown overboard in another refugee boat after some Muslims on board discovered their religious identity.

The Washington Post’s Rick Noack gives three reasons that the EU should hold itself responsible for the deaths, but only the third really gets to the heart of the issue — and the blame there is not just the EU’s either. Noack says that the EU “downsized” its rescue efforts to discourage refugees, and also criticizes the EU for making it difficult for refugees to enter at all. The murders of Christian refugees probably makes that argument a lot less powerful than Noack intends. On point three, though, Noack scores, although his target selection isn’t wide enough:

In 2007, for instance, then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy hosted Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi for five days in Paris with the aim of securing  an arms deal worth as much as $5.86 billion. Only four years later, France and other countries (including the United States) attacked Libya in an attempt to topple Gaddafi.

That intervention was supposed to be swift and easy. But Libya has turned into a mess, a fractured conflict-zone, and Europe has done little to improve conditions in the country.

The Libyan instability is among the key reasons why trafficking gangs can operate in the country without having to fear authorities. Those traffickers promise refugees a better life in Europe and they charge them for the hazardous trip in overloaded boats with the goal of reaching European soil.

Noack’s a little too generous to the US in this case. It was the Obama administration that initiated those military strikes, under the “responsibility to protect” doctrine (R2P) based on information that Qaddafi was about to attack Benghazi. NATO took charge later, led mainly by British and French military commanders, but it started with the US and Barack Obama. Obama later bragged about the ease of the decapitation of the regime, declaring it to be the model for regime change in the future rather than putting boots on the ground and lengthy occupations. Hillary Clinton, one of the architects of the Libyan intervention, crowed: “We came, we saw, he died.”

This is the utterly predictable outcome of the 30,000-foot regime-change strategy, especially in the Middle East. It’s also what happens when we pull forces out prematurely, as we saw in western Iraq over the last year. Europe now has a failed state across the Mediterranean, making the underbelly of Western civilization vulnerable once again to Islamist attacks, in a situation that is entirely of the West’s making. It has created a massive humanitarian crisis, one so bad that people are drowning by the hundreds just for the chance to escape it. And now Europe will have to open its borders to them, and will undoubtedly see that effort exploited by the very extremists that want to destroy Western civilization and replace it with the kind of fascism that terror networks are imposing piecemeal throughout what used to be Libya.

So yes, the EU is responsible. But the US may be even more responsible than the EU. Don’t say I didn’t warn you then, too.