The number of migrants reaching Italy increased by nearly 150 percent over the past year, with an overwhelming majority arriving from Libya and Tunisia, Italy’s interior ministry said on Saturday.
Italy has been struggling to deal with daily arrivals of hundreds of migrants to its southern shores, a task further complicated by coronavirus-linked security measures.
With frustration growing among local mayors, the government has chartered massive ferry ships to hold migrants under quarantine and called in the army in some cases after some migrants who tested positive for coronavirus escaped from reception centres.
From the start of August last year to the end of July this year, 21,618 migrants arrived at Italy’s shores — 148.7 percent higher than the 8,691 landings a year earlier, according to data presented by Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese.
Despite the sharp rise, the number of migrant arrivals is still far below numbers recorded in recent years.
From 2016 to 2017, Italy recorded 182,877 migrant arrivals.
After Italy signed a deal with Libya for its coast guard to prevent migrant departures, the number fell to 42,700 in the 2017 to 2018 period.
“There is a need for a protection system both for the populations receiving the migrants and for the migrants themselves,” she said.
Tunisia is the main departure spot for migrants headed to Italy. Some 41.6 percent of the migrants who arrived over the past year departed from Tunisia, followed by Libya at 40.5 percent.
The interior ministry data showed that 622 asylum seekers were relocated to other European countries during the period from September 5, 2019 to July 31, up 167 percent.
France took in the most at 395, while 132 migrants were sent to Germany and 42 to Portugal.