By International Organization for Migration
Italy in the first three months of 2015 registered a total of 10,165 migrants arriving on its shores - a slight drop in the number of arrivals recorded during the same period in 2014.
Additionally, Italy rescued about 2,000 migrants at sea during the first weekend of April in the Channel of Sicily, as a result of several seaborne operations. As of today (10/4) the total arrivals comes to over 12,000.
According to IOM estimates, at least 480 migrants have lost their lives in the Mediterranean since the beginning of the year, often because of bad weather conditions and the acute disrepair of the overcrowded vessels used by the smugglers. Fewer than 50 fatalities were reported by this time last year.
Despite the end last year of the search and rescue operation known as Mare Nostrum—and despite the hazardous sea conditions and winter cold—the number of incoming migrants is similar to last year, when 10,965 people were rescued between January and March.
As IOM has frequently noted, this further puts into question the notion that Mare Nostrum functioned as a “pull-factor” for migrants. Based on the information provided by the Italian Ministry of Interior, the six most represented nationalities were: Gambia (1,413), Senegal (1,187), Somalia (1,107), Syria (1,056), Mali (991), and Eritrea (906). These nationalities were also among the top 10 this time last year.
While the vast majority of migrants were adult males, there were also significant numbers of women and children, particularly unaccompanied minors (613.)
Based on the accounts provided by migrants, the vast majority sailed from Libya, a country in which security has progressively deteriorated in recent months. Main departure points were Misrata, Zuwara, and Tripoli.
For many migrants Libya is a country of transit, but in the last few months IOM staffers have met many other migrants who had been living permanently in Libya, but recently decided to leave the country and travel to Italy by sea.
The migrants who reached the Italian coast reported that there was violence escalating in Libya. “Reports suggest that thousands are waiting to depart the country, but the multiple factors which influence actual departures are so unpredictable in Libya that is best to avoid speculation on numbers,” said Federico Soda, Director of the IOM Coordination Office for the Mediterranean in Rome.
The boats transporting men, women, and children attempting to reach Europe often carry vulnerable people, including asylum seekers, victims of trafficking and violence, unaccompanied children, and pregnant women.
“Given the Libyan situation”, Mr. Soda added, “we may also consider the economic migrants (mainly from sub-Sahara Africa) passing through Libya as vulnerable, as they are often systematically and cruelly abused by smugglers and traffickers.”
“Unfortunately,” Mr. Soda concluded, “it is almost impossible to determine precisely how many have died during the Mediterranean crossings, and crossing the Sahara where many die unnoticed.”
For further information, please contact Flavio Di Giacomo at IOM Italy, Tel: +39 347 089 8996, Email:email@example.com