“Stopping the boats saves lives” is crocodile tears from people who refuse to take steps to in fact save lives.
In many cases, it is government policy in relation to airlines that forces people to get on unsafe boats rather than fly. Governments, airlines and airport crew have the power to give people safer options because they are the ones who have ensured that the more dangerous option is the only one available.
There is one very simple measure that can be taken now to ensure that fewer people embark on unsafe boats: abolish the enormous penalties on airlines which transport passengers without visas.
Most airlines include a clause in their tickets which passes on government fines, such as this one from Lufthansa:
Refusal of Entry 13.3. If you are denied entry into any country, you will be responsible to pay any fine or charge assessed against us by the Government concerned and for the cost of transporting you from that country. We may apply to the payment of such fare any funds paid to us for unused carriage, or any funds of the passenger in the possession of us. The fare collected for carriage to the point of refusal of entry or deportation will not be refunded by us.
Governments around the world levy huge fines on airlines for transporting asylum seekers.
Laws create the market for people-smuggling. The more governments deploy military and naval blockades against boats traveling safer routes, the more likely it is that those boats will seek to evade those blockades and be forced into dangerous waters.
“Stop the boats” is spin addressed to a constituency which whose travels through passports checks, while often exhausting and tiresome, have never in fact been impeded. In other words, it relies on ignorance borne of the entitlements accorded to specific (eg Australian and English) passports around the world.