A sailboat that a group of migrants used to reach the beach at Calopezzati, in the province of Cosenza, Calabria.| PHOTO: ANSA
A sailboat that a group of migrants used to reach the beach at Calopezzati, in the province of Cosenza, Calabria.| PHOTO: ANSA

The phenomenon of so-called 'phantom landings,' where small boats of migrants arrive undetected on Italian shores, has seen an increase with the recent calmer seas. Between Sunday and Monday, a total of 141 migrants arrived in Sardinia, Lampedusa, and Calabria on small boats, rubber dinghies, and sailboats.

Migrants are continuing to arrive in Italy, despite Interior Minister Matteo Salvini's zero-tolerance policy with closed ports. The arrivals now though are in small numbers on boats or rubber dinghies and in some cases even sailboats. Since these landings often go undetected by law enforcement, their numbers are sometimes not calculated in the official arrival figures. On Monday there were three landings that were detected, however, in Sardinia, Calabria, and Lampedusa. And on Sunday in Puglia, 73 migrants arrived. A total of 141 migrants arrived over two days. 

New routes for small boats

The total number of arrivals thus far in 2019, 1,764, is 87 percent less than the same period in 2018, when 13,775 migrants arrived. However, with the arrival of warmer weather and calmer seas, the numbers of this new type of small boat route are on the rise. There are various routes; the longest is the one from Turkey to the southern coasts of the Italian mainland in Calabria and Puglia. Another route starts in Algeria and Tunisia and finishes on the islands of Sardinia and Sicily. The small boats used for the crossings manage to slip through the system of naval surveillance, entering Italian waters and often landing undetected, hence the reason they are called 'phantom' landings.

Italian law enforcement and intelligence have been keeping an eye on this type of arrival for some time because of the risk it poses for criminals who could have ties to terrorist organizations infiltrating the country. Sometimes the trips are well-coordinated, with mother ships part of the journey, putting the migrants in the water in smaller boats that then arrive on the Italian coasts. 

Recent episodes

On Sunday, 73 Pakistanis departed Turkey on a sailboat and reached the beach of Torre Colimena in the province of Taranto, Puglia. They were stopped by Carabinieri police and said they had each paid 5,600 euros to undertake the long, difficult, and risky journey to reach Italy. On Monday, there were other episodes, including one in the morning when six migrants arrived in a rubber dinghy on the island of Lampedusa. 

Later on Monday, a sailboat landed in the waters off the beach of Calopezzati on the Ionian Sea in the province of Cosenza, Calabria. All of the migrants in that landing, a total of 41 including women and children, were Kurdish and Iraqi. In Sardinia there was a double landing on the southern beaches of the Sulcis area. On Sunday evening, Carabinieri police identified 16 migrants on the beach of Porto Pino in the province of Cagliari. Then, on Monday morning a Carabinieri patrol boat intercepted a small boat with five Algerians on board in the area of Sant'Antioco. 
 

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