While Italy is the current focus of efforts by migrants and asylum-seekers hoping to enter the European Union, Cooper said, that has not always been the case.
"Seven years ago it was the Canary Islands, then the pressure moved to the central Mediterranean, then it moved to Greece -- then with the Arab Spring, it moved back to Italy," she said.
"There are definitely too many lives lost and definitely too many tragedies in the Mediterranean."
Rights group Amnesty International called for both Italy and the European Union to do more to safeguard the thousands who risk their lives each year in the hope of protection or a better life.
"It is high time the Italian authorities and the EU increase their search-and-rescue capacity and co-operation in the Mediterranean Sea, rather than concentrating resources on closing off the borders," said Jezerca Tigani, deputy director of Amnesty International's Europe and Central Asia Program.
"More must be done to prevent further loss of life in the future."
Pope Francis, who visited the tiny island near Sicily this summer to pray for refugees and migrants lost at sea, echoed that call.
During his visit to Lampedusa in July, Pope Francis criticized what he called "global indifference" to the island's refugee crisis.
And in a statement issued by the Vatican Thursday, Francis called for concerted action to prevent more tragedies like the Lampedusa shipwreck.
"It is a disgrace!" he said. "Let's pray together with God for those who have lost their lives: men, women, children and for the families of all the refugees. Let's bring our forces together so tragedies like these ones don't happen again."
A risky journey
According to a briefing published by the U.N. refugee agency in July, the peak crossing period for migrants and asylum-seekers runs from May to September.
The agency estimates that 8,400 migrants and asylum-seekers landed on the coasts of Italy and Malta in the first six months of this year, all but 600 of them in Italy.
Most departed from North Africa, principally Libya, for the perilous journey across the Mediterranean, one of the busiest seaways in the world.
The migrants and asylum seekers chiefly come from countries in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly Somalia and Eritrea, it said. Others originate from Syria, Egypt or Pakistan, and smaller numbers from Gambia, Mali and Afghanistan.
The U.N. refugee agency recorded some 40 deaths in the first six months of 2013, a figure based on interviews with survivors of the crossing.
For 2012 as a whole, some 15,000 migrants and asylum-seekers reached Italy and Malta -- and almost 500 people were reported dead or missing at sea, it said.
The U.N. agency credits the efforts of the Italian coast guard and Maltese armed forces for a reduction in migrant deaths in the first half of 2013 compared with the previous year.