A boat with migrants on board arriving on the Italian island of Lampedusa, southern Italy. Credit: ANSA
A boat with migrants on board arriving on the Italian island of Lampedusa, southern Italy. Credit: ANSA

The Mediterranean country has witnessed a significant drop in migrant arrivals by more than two thirds in the past few months. An agreement between Libya and Italy is accredited with creating the sharp decline in migrant boats arriving on the country's shores.

Italy's Interior Minister Marco Minniti has called the trend in decreasing migrant boat arrivals ''encouraging'' - as overall numbers of refugees coming to Europe have decreased across the continent in the past two years. Some 118,573 migrants had reportedly arrived on Italy's shores since the beginning of 2017 - 34 percent less than 2016, which had marked a record-high with 180,000 sea arrivals.

Agreement with Libya

The agreement with Libya from July 2017 managed to curb the number of departures from the shores of the North African nation, leading to a 70 percent drop over the past five months. Interior Minister Marco Minniti, however stressed that the agreement was not a long-term solution: "One must not deal with such a complex issue with the shortcut of immediate agreement," he said stating his overall objective to "regulate the flows, since uncontrolled arrivals make it extremely difficult to manage reception projects."

Minniti also praised an agreement signed with 265 mayors of Italy's southern Campania region earlier in December - one of the region's most seriously hit by the migrant influx. The deal is designed to spread migrants across the region.

"If every community has a small number of migrants the rights of those welcomed here and those doing the welcoming are both upheld. Small numbers spread across a wide area create the possibility to prevent the build-up of reservations against migrants and will make it possible to pursue true integration policies that, in turn, lead to security policies," he explained.

Minniti also said that the term ''emergency'' should be avoided when discussing immigration in order to prevent populist trends.

Coast Guard instrumental in addressing humanitarian needs

Meanwhile Italy's Infrastructure Minister Graziano Delrio made comments on the state of rescue missions in the Mediterranean Sea. Delrio traveled to Pozzallo near Ragusa in Sicily on Tuesday on the Italian Coast Guard's Dattilo ship to take stock of operations. 

Pozzallo stressed that through rescue missions, Italy had "received 50,000 migrants, which shows its aptitude for reception through large-scale organizational efforts."

Delrio added, however, that Italy cannot remain alone in the endeavor to address the migrant crisis: "We want there to be full operational power of all Mediterranean countries to rescue and of all European countries to welcome (migrants)."

In 2017, Nigerian migrants marked the highest number of arrivals in Italy (18,100), followed by Guineans (9,646), Ivorians (9,409) and Bengalese (8,954). 


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