The director of the agency for the control of the external borders of the European Union (EU) has predicted that as many as 300,000 new migrants will be heading up from sub-Saharan Africa into Europe, most of whom will attempt to reach Italy as first port of call.
Fabrice Leggeri, the director of Frontex, said Tuesday that he based his estimates in part on recent surveys done in the Agadez region of Niger, where sub-Saharan migration has reached 13 thousand persons per month.
“If migration flows from West Africa continue toward Libya, then we must expect some 300,000 people fleeing this year from West Africa to the northern Maghreb, to then continue to travel to Europe,” he said in an interview with the German Funke media group.
The director also expressed concern that an alternate route from Egypt has opened in the Mediterranean after the effective closing of the so-called Balkan route through Greece to Macedonia.
With shifting migration patterns, 13 to 14 times more migrants are now traveling from Libya to Italy than from Turkey to Greece, he said.
“The momentum is increasing. From April to May, the number of people fleeing to Italy doubled,” Leggeri noted, adding that the ethnic composition of the migrants has similarly shifted from the Middle East to Africa.
“The majority of the asylum seekers are now coming from countries such as Eritrea in the Horn of Africa, where a brutal military regime is in power,” he said.
“The numbers are increasing,” Leggeri said, noting that in just four days some 11,000 migrants had been rescued in the Mediterranean, mostly in boats departing from Libya and heading to Italy.
The Frontex chief also expressed his concern regarding the objective difficulty of the trip across the Strait of Sicily, the new preferred route for migrants trying to get to Europe.
“It is a very dangerous crossing,” he said, “and it often takes more than ten days. There are few boats along this route available to assist migrants who are on sinking vessels.”
Last weekend, in fact, some 3,000 migrants on board thirty different boats were rescued while attempting to make the crossing.
“In all the time I spent in the central Mediterranean,” said one of the rescuers of Doctors Without Borders, “I’ve never seen anything like this, ever.”
The director of Frontex offered a grim overall evaluation of Europe’s migrant crisis, summing up EU immigration policy as a “failure.”
“The EU asylum policy has failed for a long time,” he said. “The EU countries are not even able to distribute the 160,000 refugees proposed in 2015 by the Commission.”
“But the problem is: The migrants do not want to be distributed in EU countries. They have precise target countries such as Germany, where they want to go. This complicates a fair distribution of people in Europe,” he said.
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