Photo of a boat left by the migrants after a ghost landing. Credit: Mareamico
Photo of a boat left by the migrants after a ghost landing. Credit: Mareamico

They leave Tunisia in groups of a few dozen on board small fishing boats and cross the 250 km of water separating the north African country from Sicily. They arrive on the beaches of Agrigento, Lampedusa or Linosa, change their clothes and flee, leaving behind their old clothes and sometimes also their boat.These are the 'ghost landings' that have been taking place in Sicily for months.

The migrants enter Europe without being identified, with a possible risk for security. It is difficult to know how many migrants arrive in this way, Claudio Lombardo of the Agrigento chapter of the environmental association Mareamico told ANSA.

"We know they have arrived when we find the boat on the beach, but in some cases we find only the clothes they leave behind... In the last two months, there have been at least 50 certain landings with evidence in the boat; for the rest we don't know. Prosecutors estimate that 1,200 people have arrived on the Agrigento coast and 1,800 on Lampedusa and Linosa," Lombardo added.

Most of the migrants who arrive this way are north African. "They land mostly at night and according to prosecutors they are largely economic migrants, along with some who have already been expelled from Italy and others who have just been released from jail in Tunisia as a result of the amnesty," Lombardo said. "These landings are dangerous, we know nothing about who arrives," he continued.

Following the drop in arrivals from Libya due to bilateral agreements to stem the flow, these routes, in use 10-15 years ago and during the Arab Spring, have been restored, according to Mareamico.

The organization has posted videos of the landings on its Facebook page. "Once they have landed, the migrants run away and just a few of them are identified." Twenty-four hours of navigation are needed in a 10-12-meter-long fishing boat to cross the 250 km separating the Tunisian coast from that of Agrigento at the nearest point.

However, during the summer, boats just six meters long have reportedly arrived, suggesting there "may be a mother boat." The migrants "have a sort of kit in a plastic bag: dry clothes, a carton of milk and a bottle of water." They change and disappear.

Mareamico spoke out long ago because it believed Italy's most beautiful beaches were invaded by wreckages, which were a problem for the environment and landscape. Now the issue has been brought to the attention of the authorities, but the problem remains because now the beaches are empty and there is no one to document the landings.

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