Challenging the common belief in Europe that the search and rescue efforts of European humanitarian NGO's encourage migrants to make the treacherous journey from North Africa, a new study, reported in the Guardian, shows there is no statistical correlation the two. The study, conducted by Italian researchers at the European University Institute, examined proactive search and rescue missions from 2014 through October of 2019, mostly focusing on activity taking place in the first part of 2019, during which European nations cut back their naval activity, leaving such rescue work primarily to NGO's and to the Libyan navy.
The study found possible stronger correlations between the number of migrants attempting the journey to the level of political stability in Libya or even the weather, and not to the amount or operational activity of NGO vessels at sea.
In 2015, the study noted that the total departures from Libya deceased relative to 2014, while the number of migrants rescued by NGO's at sea increased. After July 2017, the number of migrants crossing the sea dropped, even though NGO activity increased. The study further noted that in the 85 day period in which the NGO's were operating at sea, there were no more migrant smuggling voyages than in the 225 days in which Libyan naval vessels were present. Rather, the study pointed to the biggest decline in attempts in 2017 after the Italian government struck an arrangement with the Tripoli GNA government to stop the migrant crossings closer to Libya before they reach European waters.
Throughout the 5 year period in question, NGO's have rescued 115,000 out of the 650,000 who have attempted to cross the Mediterranean.