Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti expressed optimism over the situation of migrant flows into Italy at a press conference on August 15. "We're still inside the tunnel, which is long, but for the first time I'm starting to see the light," he said.
His optimism is being fueled by the most recent data on migrant flows. "We focused on Libya, which seemed very difficult, but now it seems like something is moving," he said.
The numbers show an annual drop in migrant arrivals of just over 4 percent, but above all a drop by half in the month of July (23,552 in 2016 compared to 11,459 in 2017), with the possibility for an even bigger drop in August, which thus far has seen a dip of 73 percent (from 7,733 to 2,080).
Steps forward, but 'EU must do more'
The Italian government sees positive results, but Minniti is asking the European Union to do more. "In the central and western Mediterranean, Europe must meet the challenge united and put adequate resources in the field," he said. Regarding control of Libyan territorial waters, he said that "steps forward" have been made, and now surveillance on the southern border of Libya must be strengthened.
To this end, Italy wants to launch a strong international initiative starting on August 28, when in Rome a meeting will be held of African interior ministers whose countries share a border with southern Libya. Minniti emphasised the cornerstones of "rescue at sea and humanitarian effort in Libya", for which the EU and Italy have allocated 200 million euros.
Regarding the risk of more deaths in the Mediterranean due to the code of conduct Italy has set forth for NGOs operating rescue missions there, Minniti said the code was approved with a unanimous resolution in the Italian Parliament. "We respect those (NGOs) who didn't sign," Minniti said. "We believe there must be a trust relationship between the security system and the NGOs," he said.
NGO Intersos: "Thousands in the dark in Libya"
Minister Minniti is seeing the light on migration. Unfortunately, thanks to his choices, supported by the Italian government and the European Union, thousands of innocent people will see the darkness of prison, torture, rape, and death in Libya," said Italian NGO Intersos. "The interior minister once again left out clarification of the consequences that the choice of outsourcing migrant flow management to Libya will have for men, women, and children," it said.
"When stopped by the Libyan Coast Guard, they are frequently subjected to robberies and abuse, to then be brought to detention centres where they are held prisoners in inhumane conditions," it said. "As an Italian humanitarian organisation, we express our deep concern in seeing our country treat with such lightness the rights and the life of human beings".