With more than 168,500 migrants landing on Italian shores since January and more pouring in every day, 2016 promises to break previous records for the number of migrants arriving on the peninsula.
For the year-to-date, 2016 arrivals are up a significant 17.28 percent over the same time last year, and 4.41 percent compared to the previous record year of 2014.
Italy is now only 1,500 persons away from breaking the 2014 record of 170,100 migrants and refugees who landed in Italy that year.
Of those arriving, 137,555 migrants are presently staying in temporary structures, 13,963 in first reception centers, 760 in “hotspots” (identification centers), and 23,061 in the “SPRAR circuit” (a protection system for asylum seekers).
The five Italian regions accommodating the most immigrants are the northern region of Lombardy, followed by Lazio (whose capital is Rome), Sicily, Veneto, and Campania.
Along with adult migrants and families, nearly 14,000 unaccompanied minors arrived in Italy in the first seven months of 2016, more than the total of unaccompanied minors for all of 2015.
The year 2016 has also been the deadliest on record, with a death toll of over 4,600 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean trying to make the crossing to the Italian coast.
As the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has reported, the top eight countries of origin for migrants arriving in Europe in 2016 are all from the African continent rather than the war-torn Middle East. In order, they are Nigeria, Eritrea, Sudan, Gambia, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Somalia, and Mali.
Professor Anna Bono of the University of Turin, an expert in African migration, has declared that most of the migrants coming to Italy are not refugees escaping from war or even poor people fleeing hunger, but young, middle-class males.
Bono also said that traffickers in African countries are vigorously promoting emigration to Italy through extensive ad campaigns promising a warm welcome and extensive welfare assistance.
“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.
Last month, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi warned that Italy will not survive another year of mass immigration like the present one.
“Either we block the influx by 2017 or Italy will not handle another year like the past year,” Renzi announced on national television, while also threatening to veto the European Union (EU) budget if Italy does not receive assistance coping with its dramatic migrant problem.
“Right now we can manage it: winter is coming and sea conditions will worsen, but we have six months maximum,” Renzi said, insisting that urgent measures need to be taken to stop the migrants leaving their countries of origin.
An Italian referendum for constitutional reform will be voted on December 4, and the prime minister has vowed to step down from office if the measure fails to pass.
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