A House of Lords inquiry says the UK-EU naval mission has led to more deaths, while others blame NGOs. But neither target the cause of the crisis

• Daniel Howden is a senior editor of the news website Refugees Deeply

The evolution of people-smuggling in the central Mediterranean is a story of unintended consequences. The increasing flow of refugees and migrants from the shores of north Africa has led to a shallow public debate in Europe, illustrated by haunting shipwrecks and mass drownings.

One of those shipwrecks, in October 2013, prompted Italy to launch Mare Nostrum, a search and rescue operation that patrolled close to the waters off Libya. It lasted a year before it was accused of attracting more migrants into making the crossing. This was replaced with military operations, Triton and Operation Sophia, whose priority has been the breakup of smuggling networks rather than rescue at sea.

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