The sailboat upon which some migrants reached Calabria | Photo: ANSA
The sailboat upon which some migrants reached Calabria | Photo: ANSA

In the southern Italian region of Calabria, police prevented two "phantom landings." Two small sailboats were intercepted over the weekend before reaching the shore. Meanwhile, interior ministry sources say that asylum applications and requests for humanitarian permits have declined this year in Italy.

On Friday afternoon, the aero-naval monitoring center in Pomezia (Rome) spotted a 15-meter monohull sailboat with 60 migrants aboard, 35 miles off the Ionian coast of Calabria. Two finance police patrol boats intercepted the boat that evening about a dozen miles off the coast of Caulonia in the province of Reggio Calabria. The migrants - Iranians, Iraqis, and Syrians - had been crammed below deck and disembarked Saturday morning. Among them were six women and 13 children.

A similar situation occurred on Sunday, when a sailboat was spotted in international waters and intercepted off the coast of Isola Capo Rizzuto in the province of Crotone. The sailboat landed on Sunday with 53 Pakistani males on board, 10 children among them. Both boats had departed from Turkey and were flying Turkish flags.

Calm seas lead to more landings

These are not the first attempted "phantom landings" in Italy recently. 

In Pozzallo, Sicily, Italy, 62 migrants arrived in a small boat on Friday. Between June 2 and 3, a total of 141 migrants arrived in Sardinia, Lampedusa, and Calabria on small boats, rubber dinghies, and sailboats.

Over the summer, the number of so-called phantom landings - where small boats of migrants arrive undetected on Italian shores - is expected to increase, because of the improved weather conditions. 

Ministry says 'situation under control' 

On Saturday, the Italian Interior Ministry said that the situation was under control. They said the number of migrants tracked on land near a boat arrival is decreasing, from 5,371 in 2017 to 3,668 in 2018 and 737 thus far in 2019. 

The ministry said the numbers show the "evident reduction of the phenomenon [of phantom landings] thanks to the closed-port policy, which has considerably reduced arrivals, and thanks to targeted checks by police forces..." 

Finance police are continuing their surveillance at sea in order to intercept migrant boats. 

Asylum requests down, states ministry

Meanwhile, interior ministry sources said asylum applications and requests for humanitarian permits in Italy have declined so far this year. From January 1 until May 31, 2019, a reported 15,014 asylum requests were filed compared to 28,901 during the same period last year (that's a decrease by 48 percent). 

Pending claims as of May 31 this year were 135,337 (down 53 percent).

According to data on the outcome of applications filed between January 1 and May 31 this year, 11 percent of applicants were granted refugee status, seven percent subsidiary protection, two percent recognition for humanitarian reasons and 75 percent were rejected. The remaining percentage concerns asylum seekers who could not be tracked down.


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