Disembarking operations and temperature checking of migrants coming from North Africa on arrival on the island of Lampedusa, Sicily.August 3, 2020. | Photo: ANSA/ALESSANDRO DI MEO
Disembarking operations and temperature checking of migrants coming from North Africa on arrival on the island of Lampedusa, Sicily.August 3, 2020. | Photo: ANSA/ALESSANDRO DI MEO

Fondazione Migrantes, run by the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI), has presented its 2020 report on asylum rights. The report noted that "refugees are left ever more alone", underscoring the need for the Italian Church to continue to make itself heard on the issue.

There were about 72,500 "irregular" crossings into the EU of migrants and refugees between January and September 2020, according to still provisional data. This was a 21% drop on the same period last year.

Among the main entrance "routes" that are increasingly being used are those of the central Mediterranean and the Western Balkans, though at a much lower rate than was seen in 2015 during the European "migrant emergency".

These figures were included in the 2020 report drafted by Fondazione Migrantes, a body under the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI), presented online on December 3 with the participation of CEI Secretary General Stefano Russo.

The presentation was a chance for the Italian Church to continue to make its voice heard on the issue of refugees and asylum seekers.

'Refugees left ever more alone'

"Refugees have been left ever more alone," Russo said, adding that "we are beginning to see the effects of the pandemic on an increase in inequality."

This was the reason for a request to do more than simply modifying security decrees.

"Safe access channels" for migrants are needed, he said.

The report noted that, between January and September 2020, at least 672 died or went missing at sea and 76 via land on Mediterranean and European migration routes.

In 2020, it added, there was a 31% drop in asylum requests in the European Union on the year -- down to 196,620 presented for the first time between January and June -- due largely to COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions that were brought in this past spring.

Asylum numbers

In 2019, the EU-27 recorded 612,685 asylum seekers, a 12% rise on 2018. In absolute terms, Italy came in fifth after Germany, France, Spain and Greece.

However, looking at number of asylum seekers per million inhabitants, with 580 per million, Italy was below the European average of 1,371 per million.

In 2019, the Migrantes report continued, the EU granted protection to 295,785 people through refugee status, subsidiary protection or humanitarian protection.

However, the percentage of requests actually granted, one out of three, remains very low: 38% on the first request and 31% in the final request.

Italy's granted of only 20% is well below the European level.

The report noted that, over the past five years, about two million people had entered EU territory illegally. In the same period, arrivals in the form of humanitarian admission were about 100,000 or only 5%.

Italy figures

Migrantes noted that ''once more, despite the recurring political statements about the 'return' of a wave of 'indiscriminate' migrant landings, 2020 is on the way to ending with a total number of migrant and refugee arrivals in Italy via sea that is more than the 2018-2019 two-year period of 'closed ports' and the 'war on NGOs', but still at very low levels compared with the previous years''.

The organization went on to note that there were 23,720 arrivals in Italy this year by the end of September, compared with 132,043 in the same period in 2016 and the 105,417 in 2017.

The central Mediterranean route, referring to the one towards Italy and Malta -- which saw 25,888 arrivals between January and September -- continues to be the most dangerous, the report noted.

In 2020, the waters of the central Mediterranean alone accounted for 70% of all deaths and missing of migrants trying to get to Europe. On the issue of asylum seekers in Italy, "the number in 2020 was the lower in recent years, in part due to the lockdown brought in during the 'first wave' of COVID-19, which for months paralysed asylum procedures. On September 30, there were about 16,855 asylum seekers (provisional data), two-thirds the number seen in the same period of 2019."

Of the 10 countries of origin with the highest number of asylum seekers in Italy in 2020, four have a very low 'peace index' (3 cases) or low (1 case) -- i.e. among the most unsafe countries in the world due to wars or external or internal conflicts, militarization, criminality, and violence: Pakistan, Nigeria, Venezuela, and Somalia.

 

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