The European border agency Frontex released figures showing a dramatic drop in migrant arrivals to Europe from the Central Mediterranean route in the first three months of 2019, down a full 92%. Arrivals overall were down 13% on the same period last year, with about 17,900 migrant arrivals in Europe in the first quarter of the year.
In March, irregular crossings of European borders along the major migratory routes dropped by 7% compared to the previous month, above all due to a drop in arrivals to Spain. Two out of every three migrants - over 3,000, mostly from Afghanistan and Turkey - crossed via the Eastern Mediterranean route, increasing use of that route by 10%. Migrants on the Western Mediterranean route went down by half, with only 450, mainly from Morocco.
Italy arrivals down 80-90%: Toninelli
The Italian transport minister, Danilo Toninelli, said migrant arrivals to Italy in the first three months of 2019 fell by between 80 and 90 percent compared with the same period in 2018. Speaking on the TV show Di Martedì, he said:
"I feel particularly proud in having participated in this activity because fewer boats are leaving Libya and there are fewer deaths.
"Italy has become central in Europe, thanks to strong political efforts in legality and security. I don't feel responsible for what's happening in Libya because it was caused by those who called themselves experts in politics.
"We will continue to make people respect legality and international sea conventions that are laws for Italy and for all countries. The problem must be faced on a European level."