Italy Refuses to Take More Mediterranean Migrants

By Curious

Head officials of the Italian government announced that Italy would refuse to accommodate any more migrants, as thousands more were rescued lately in the Mediterranean sea by a multinational flotilla of patrol vessels.

During the last weekend, the Italian marine forces rescued at least 4,000 people, which were led to safety from packed fishing boats and rubber dinghies off Libya.

All rescued people will be transferred in the next few days to ports on Sicily or somewhere else in southern Italy. The last rescued migrants increase this year’s total of new arrivals on Italian soil, to over 50,000.

After the latest batch, the migration crisis went back to the top of the political agenda with three big northern regions. The local governors were vowing to defy the centre-left government of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, by refusing to house any of the new arriving migrants.

Italy Refuses to Take More Mediterranean Migrants

Image: by Massimo Sestini/Italian Navy/UNHCR

Lombardy president Roberto Maroni said, he would inform the local mayors and prefects in his region, in order to warn them not to accept any more "illegal immigrants" allocated by the government.

He stated that municipalities, which did not tow the line would have their funding from the region cut.

The newly-elected Liguria’s president Giovanni Toti backed that stance as well, saying that his region would not receive any more migrants too.

Nearly 3,500 migrants were rescued on Saturday from 15 packed boats in Mediterranean waters, 45 miles (70 kilometres) off the Libyan coast.

On Sunday, the British navy ship HMS Bulwark rescued another 1,000 migrants from boats, sailing between Italy and Libya. At least 10 pregnant women were among the rescued people.

Previously the European Union governments reacted by sending more patrolling boats to the area. The cost for rescue operations and other problems involved in their processing, became a hot political issue.

The politicians have been unable to agree on a longer-term strategy to ease the migration crisis amid divisions over how to combat traffickers and spread asylum seekers fairly across member states.

During a visit on board HMS Bulwark, the British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said:

"We cannot simply deal with the symptoms of this problem; we must go after the route cause and the trafficking gangs behind it who are making money out of human misery."

Another serious problem is that the corruption investigations in Italy show that some local officials gleefully see a cash cow in the shelters. There is a growing evidence that organised crime has been siphoning off public funds allocated for the accommodation of migrants during their processing.

The facilities across Italy are at breaking point with nearly 80,000 asylum seekers.

The attempts of the Italian government, to get regions to open new facilities for the recently arrived migrants, are increasingly running into opposition. It happens mainly from right-wing politicians, but also at a grassroots level from communities, which don't want refugees housed in their neighbourhoods.

Thousands of the rescued immigrants are being resettled in shelters in central and northern Italy, while their asylum requests are processed. It happened after the continuous warnings of Sicilian mayors and head officials of other southern towns, that they have run out of room for migrants.

The amount of nearly 50,000 migrants represents an increase of around 10 percent,compared to the same period last year. Approximately calculated, it is a total of 170,000 migrants, arriving on Italian soil.

Most of the migrants flee from poverty, persecution and the war in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The majority of them arriving in Italy are not originally from Libya itself. They come from countries, such as Mali, Nigeria, Eritrea and Syria.

In 2015, over 1,800 migrants lost their life in the Mediterranean, trying to pass across the sea.