But it doesn't show any signs of stopping.
Since 2015, Europe has scrambled to cope with the arrival of around 1.5 million people by sea.
In an effort to stem this flow, many European countries have tightened their policies and borders. In 2016, the European Union forged a controversial "one in, one out" deal with Turkey to stop the tide of migrants and refugees fleeing to the continent from the Middle East. And, this year, Italy has adopted an aggressive approach to halting migration across the Mediterranean from North Africa, backing the Libyan coast guard's rescue efforts and cracking down on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) operating off the country's coast.
With each new twist and turn, the number of arrivals has dropped. But new migrant routes keep cropping up. People seeking alternative passages have moved westward -- seen in the recent spike in migrants arriving in Spain from northern Morocco -- while others are turning in desperation to new destinations such as Yemen
that surfaced on social media in early August showed stunned sunbathers watching as a dinghy packed with dozens of African migrants landed on a Spanish beach -- the latest sign of an evolving crisis.
Here's what has been happening in the Mediterranean:
Why are NGOs suspending migrant search-and-rescue (SAR) operations in the Mediterranean?
Three aid groups operating in the Mediterranean -- Doctors Without Borders (MSF), Save the Children and Sea Eye -- suspended their rescue operations in August, citing security concerns after Libya blocked foreign vessels from a stretch of sea off its coast. The MSF said an increasingly "hostile environment" had made their efforts untenable, while Sea Eye alleged that the Libyan government had issued an "explicit threat
" against NGOs.
What is the Libyan coast guard doing?
Libya has extended its SAR zone into international waters, restricting access to humanitarian vessels. The Libyan navy, emboldened by its agreement with Italy, has recently fired warning shots
at humanitarian aid vessels patrolling in this area. Libyan Navy spokesman Brigadier Ayoub Qassem told CNN: "We are fed up with these organizations. They increased the number of immigrants and empowered smugglers. Meanwhile, they criticize us for not respecting human rights."
Libya has asserted its right to operate beyond the territorial limit of 12 nautical miles from the coast. According to Save the Children
, Libya has extended its SAR zone to 70 nautical miles from its shoreline. The move has led to clashes with NGO vessels at the edge of Libyan waters.
What assistance is Italy providing to the Libyan coast guard and why?
In August, Italy announced
it would deploy two naval ships to Libya -- a patrol vessel and a technical and logistical support unit -- in an effort to deter illegal migration and human smuggling into Europe. The move came after Libya's UN-recognized government of national accord requested help. The initiative has been widely panned by NGOs, which have warned that the move will expose migrants to far more danger and abuse.
What restrictions has Italy imposed on NGOs?
In late July, Italy's Parliament passed a controversial "code of conduct" for NGOs operating search-and-rescue missions in the Mediterranean. Among the measures are:
• Ban on entering Libyan waters except in situations of grave or imminent danger
• Ban on phone calls to help migrant departures
• Ban on transferring rescued migrants to other vessels
• Commitment to allow armed police onto vessels to monitor activities
Three of the eight humanitarian groups operating in the Mediterranean agreed to the terms, while Doctors Without Borders refused to sign, saying it could increase deaths at sea. The mayor of Catania, Italy, told CNN that he believes the code of conduct is behind the recent drop in migrant arrivals there; critics say it is too early to tell.
What is happening to migrant arrivals in Italy?
Migrant arrivals to Italy dropped in July -- cut in half from the same month last year -- figures from Italy's interior ministry showed. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM)
, 94,802 migrants have reached Italian shores so far this year -- 85% of all arrivals in Europe.