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Thousands More Migrants Arrive in Italy Over Weekend

Massive migration into Italy continues unabated, as some 6,100 migrants were rescued at sea over the weekend as they attempted to cross the Strait of Sicily from North Africa into Italy.

In a series of 24 different rescue operations coordinated by the Italian Coast Guard, vessels recovered thousands of mostly African migrants as well as 14 dead bodies off the coast of Libya beginning on Friday and continuing all the way through Sunday.

The Italian coast guard said it recovered seven dead bodies on Friday and another seven the next day, while a number of people are still reported missing.

Participants in the rescue efforts included EU Navfor Med, an Irish naval vessel, various merchant ships and NGOs such as Doctors without Borders, Boat Refugee Foundation, Lifeboat, SOS Méditerranée and Sea Watch.

The latest arrivals push the number of migrants arriving in Italy to over 150,000 since January 1, 2016, a figure that exceeds the numbers of migrants arriving in 2015, which had itself been a record year.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) less than 2,000 migrants have subsequently left Italy, while the immense bulk have remained. The Populist Five Star Movement has used these data to attack sitting Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, insisting that he has zero clout within the European Union and has no idea how to solve Italy’s enormous migrant crisis.

Italy is the principal destination for migrants traveling from North Africa and seeking to reach Europe. The voyage across the Strait of Sicily is perilous, and more than 3,000 migrants have lost their lives attempting the crossing this year.

According to Professor Anna Bono, who teaches African History and Institutions at the University of Turin, most of the migrants coming to Italy are not refugees escaping from war or even poor people fleeing hunger. The migrants tend to be young, middle-class males, she says.

Bono says that the enormous costs of emigration contradict the common thesis that migrants are fleeing dire situations of indigence, noting that those who want to come to Europe must procure as much as 10 thousand dollars to pay traffickers for their passage.

The professor also stated that there is extensive propaganda by traffickers in African countries promoting emigration to Italy.

“In the countries of sub-Saharan Africa there are advertisements inciting people to go to Italy, explaining that everything here is free. And indeed it is,” she said.

“I imagine the phone calls these guys make home to their friends, confirming that everything is actually given them for free,” she said.

Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter  

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