It is sometimes said that this situation has arisen because Libya – from where most of the phenomenally dangerous boat trafficking originates – is now a failed state in which it is impossible to arrange any organised controls. It will not, therefore, be possible to get a grip on the migrant problem until Libya has had its stability and accountable government restored. That sounds like a very long project to me – perhaps a generation’s worth of slow nation-building. Surely the immediate crisis cannot wait that long for a remedy. And waves of people have been known to flee war-ravaged, ungovernable regions before. Mainland Europe is no stranger to refugee crises: even when they have coincided, as they often do, with economic hard times, some way has generally been found to protect those on the move from the exploitation of gangsters. In truth, the individual countries of Europe made a better fist of dealing with these things in the dark days of unashamed national self-determination than the idealised post-nationalist EU is making now. If anything, the existence of EU institutions seems to offer an excuse for inaction.
Just what is the EU leadership doing now? Has any serious investigation of the people-trafficking industry been conducted by properly constituted authorities? Does the boat relay out of Libya to Italy and Greece not have a European end to its organisation which could be pursued and prosecuted? Has the EU Commission consulted with, and debriefed, all those aid agencies whose ad hoc interventions often seem counter to the policy of the national governments most affected by the crisis? Is there any co-ordination between the security forces of Italy, France, and Greece, or any detailed plan for how this chaos might be resolved?