Favorable weather conditions have brought about a significant increase in the number of migrant-laden rafts and barges setting out from North Africa to Italy, with several thousand being rescued in the Strait of Sicily over the past two days.
On Tuesday, a remarkable total of 26 rescue operations were carried out, resulting in some 3,200 migrants being brought aboard relief vessels and transported to Italy. Along with the survivors, the body of a man who had drowned during the crossing was also found.
Under the coordination of Italy’s Central Coast Guard, vessels of the Italian Navy, the Irish Navy, various non-governmental organizations and European units participated in the numerous rescue missions.
According to the latest monthly report from Frontex, the European Union’s external border security division, migrant arrivals into Italy jumped between May and June, with levels similar to those of 2015.
The main difference has been that the number of migrants proceeding from North Africa increased dramatically during June, up 24% from May. Of the 22,500 June arrivals, Frontex reported, most of the migrants reaching the Italian coast have been from Nigeria, Eritrea and Sudan.
The steady wave of migrants is straining Italy’s capacity to deal with the crisis and authorities have been constrained to appropriate other facilities such as schools, gymnasiums, hotels and other structures in order to provide sleeping arrangements for the migrants.
Tensions have also mounted over migrants’ wishes to move quickly into Northern Europe rather than having their asylum requests processed in Southern Italy.
On Monday, a group of some 300 young migrants seized control of a refugee welcome center in Reggio Calabria, barricading themselves inside for eight hours by piling up furniture against the entrance to the building.
The migrants released a list of demands, the most important of which was the wish to be moved elsewhere, particularly to Germany or other countries of northern Europe.
In late June, the director of Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, confessed that the EU’s immigration policy has been 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.”
Leggeri acknowledged that much of the problem stems from the fact that the migrants have specific destination points in mind when they arrive, and do not wish to be subject to the EU’s rules.
“But the problem is: The migrants do not want to be distributed in EU countries,” Leggeri said. “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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