Italy’s migrant welcome centers are in a state of “collapse” as huge waves of African migrants take advantage of the temperate climate to make the crossing from Libya to the Italian peninsula.
On Tuesday, 8,500 African migrants are reaching Italian shores aboard 14 different ships, adding to the 5,000 who arrived on Monday. The massive arrivals have led local media as well as politicians to speak of an authentic immigrant “invasion” exceeding the country’s capacity of assimilation.
Officials reported on June 15 that more than 65,000 migrants had arrived since the beginning of the year, but that was prior to the latest influx. Figures for the year now stand at 73,380 migrants into Italy, or a rise of 14.42 percent over the same period in 2016, when then-record arrivals had reached 64,133.
The exodus from Libya to the Italian coast has continuing unabated with no visible action on the part of the Italian government or the European Union to halt it.
The illegal immigrants who reach the Libyan coast from all parts of Africa (most recently, from the West), embark in the Mediterranean on makeshift boats. The majority of these are picked up either by NGOs or humanitarian organizations or official Italian Coast Guard or naval vessels.
Despite their intention to travel up through Italy into northern Europe, the vast majority of migrants end up remaining in Italy, mostly because the northern borders with France, Switzerland and Austria are closely watched.
According to the Interior Ministry, the region that has taken in the most migrants is Lombardy (13 percent), followed by Lazio (9 percent), Campania (9 percent), Piedmont (8 percent), Veneto (8 percent), Emilia Romagna (8 percent), Tuscany (7 percent), Puglia (7 percent) and Sicily (7 percent).
“The government continues to show a worrying powerlessness in the face of a situation that becomes more and more dramatic every day,” said Paolo Romani, president of the senators of Forza Italy. Romani urged Italian prime minister Paolo Gentiloni to “safeguard national interests, even if necessary by blocking the access to Italian ports.”
Romani has also called on the UN Security Council to intervene, urging “shared strategies to stop the departures” from Libya, as well as a ban on NGOs whose shuttle service to Italy only serves to “aggravate the situation.”
Romani’s counterpart in the House, Forza Italia’s Renato Brunetta, has petitioned Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti to block migrant ships heading to Italy and instead to request European Union (EU) Officials to have the vessels diverted to other Mediterranean ports.
The head of Italy’s Northern League party, Matteo Salvini, expressed his exasperation in a tweet to his followers, noting that Tuesday’s arrival of 8,500 illegal immigrants onto Italian soil was “fucking enough.”
“This complicit government will do nothing,” he wrote, “so it’s up to us to use every (licit) means we can,” while adding the hashtag #stopinvasione.
Italy’s national anti-mafia and counterterrorism prosecutor, Franco Roberti, has acknowledged that this new wave of landings poses its own dangers, and constitutes “a threat to national security.”
Meanwhile, on Sunday 52 would-be West African emigrants were found dead in the desert area north of the river Niger, on the border with Libya, while 24 of their companions were rescued.
The prefect of the northern region of Bilma, Fatoumi Boudou, confirmed that a “group of about 70 people traveling from Agadez [Niger] to Libya aboard three vehicles had been abandoned in the desert without food or water” by traffickers.