NGO-run rescue vessels operating in the Mediterranean Sea have taken to Italy a total of 10,000 migrants during the first nine months of 2022, compared to 6,000 last year. The fleet is growing amid tensions about the future of immigration policies in Italy under the next centre-right government.
Humanitarian vessels operating in the Mediterranean are hard at work after taking to Italy some 10,000 migrants during the first nine months of this year, against 6,000 last year. The period ahead promises to be one of tension when the new center-right government, which has promised a hard line on immigration, takes office. NGOs, for their part, have not adopted conciliatory tones.
The numbers of migrant-rescue operations
At least seven NGO-run migrant-rescue vessels are currently operating in the Mediterranean and their number is on the rise.
Their rescue operations, however, account only for a minority of overall arrivals which were 71,000 so far this year, up 65% compared to the same period last year and more than the total number recorded in all of 2021 (67,000).
Half of the migrants who landed in the first nine months of 2022 were rescued at sea (along with NGOs, rescue operations were also carried out by coast guards, finance police, the Navy and merchant vessels); the other 35,000 landed on their own.
Such high figures reflect the state of crisis of countries of departure, in particular Libya and Tunisia.
This is the scenario awaiting the next interior minister. Giorgia Meloni, the leader of the far-right Brothers of Italy party that won the national election on September 25, has often spoken about a naval blockade.
Meanwhile Matteo Salvini, the leader of the far-right League party that will be part of the governing coalition with the more centrist right-wing Forza Italia, relaunched his closed-ports policy and security decrees approved when he was interior minister. And due to one of his strong-arms with an NGO, the Spanish Open Arms, Salvini is on trial in Palermo.
A new season of tension with the NGO fleet is therefore possibly on the horizon over migrant-rescue operations.
In addition, there are other numbers to consider, those of migrants who didn't make it to Europe: 1,400 people were reported dead in the Mediterranean in 2022, nearly 25,000 since 2014.
Concern for the new Italian government
Commenting the victory of the center-right in Italy, crew members of the German-flagged Louise Michel boat funded by artist Banksy said that "while fascists are gaining ground in Italy and elsewhere, solidarity and anti-fascist action is today more important than ever."
The Sea-Watch 3, also German, was seized by authorities on Friday (September 30) in the southern city of Reggio Calabria after an inspection carried out by coast guards.
"The Italian government continues its policy of deterrence," said Sea-Watch, adding that "our response will be the Sea-Watch 5, which will set sail in a few months: a faster, larger (it will be able to hold up to 500 passengers), more efficient boat."
SOS Humanity, which runs the Humanity 1 vessel (German), said it is "deeply concerned", as an organization that conducts civil search and rescue operations, "for the right-wing alliance that will be in government in Italy, which wants to actively prevent immigration."
"During the electoral campaign, it became very clear that the human rights of international refugees don't count and that non-governmental search-and-rescue organizations are threatened of a massive blockade," commented SOS Humanity.