People from countries with a paramilitarized coast guard seem to tend to discuss coast guard issues such as the illegal immigration and distress situation in the Central Mediterranean as a topic fit for a Milblog, and I will use this as an excuse to issue a comment.
The situation shows that both sides of the debate (as I view it) are very much restricted in their repertoire.
The governments of Europe appear to be limited in their ability to a treatment of the symptom, by ramping up maritime observation and search and rescue efforts mostly. Other measures include the handling of the immigrants in EU countries.
The other extreme is the much less prominent team do-gooder, which pretends to propose measures that address the root cause; restrictions on immigration if not even poverty in Africa and civil wars. Yes, some people talk about the need for a small arms export ban and feel this is closely related to the distress at sea issue.
Based on my (not truly thorough) investigation of the subject, I suspect the best course of action would be to address the immediate cause, but just as with the piracy issue, the Ukraine crisis and some others such a policy doesn't seem to be in the European repertoire any more.
The cause of this kind of migration is in my opinion largely the success of a well-reported investment model: A village or clan sends one or two productive and loyal members to Europe to earn money there and then send it back home. This is how poor African refugees can come up with 5,000 € for the smugglers' efforts. Another business model that drives the migration is even criminal; the smugglers themselves pay families to get pretty young women to immigrate into Europe, where their 'occupation' is pre-planned already.
Such business models and also the hopes of other potential immigrants can be smashed if the migrants were kept without the freedom of intra-EU travel on an island. Pantelleria is not really too small for this, but maybe too pretty. How about paying Greece to house all unaccepted migrants at minimum humane comfort on Crete or Rhodes?
A following information campaign in African and Arab television with plenty of video documentation of unhappy and bored migrants who get no money at all could then dry out the supply of these migrants. A few mean rumours wouldn't hurt either. And those who want to return ought to be returned.
Rescue of people in distress at sea is a self-evident service of a modern, sophisticated state. Yet such states do not need to respect foreigners' business models that don't respect the state.
The problem is that only the most obvious, most primitive reactions to problems have a decent chance of approval in the rigid and unimaginative European capitals. Pirates at sea? Patrol the sea! War in Ukraine? Call for ceasefire and issue sanctions. Migrants at sea? Patrol the sea!
Something seems broken when political systems can only come up with unimaginative, primitive and utterly predictable responses.