Migrants being rescued by Italian Coast Guard and Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms off the coasts of Libya Credit: Open Arms
Migrants being rescued by Italian Coast Guard and Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms off the coasts of Libya Credit: Open Arms

Mass migrant departures from Africa are picking up again after a slight respite, with about 1,400 migrants rescued from the Strait of Sicily in recent days. 11 bodies were also recovered on Sunday.

Meanwhile, French police stopped four Italians during an anti-fascist demonstration on Sunday that began in Italy near the border with France and ended in the area of Briancon on the French side. Italian Interior Ministry figures, which are not updated with the latest arrivals, show that 7,814 migrants have arrived in Italy thus far in 2018, a 79% drop compared to the same period in 2017, when 36,871 migrants had arrived. 

Ten months of decrease in arrivals

 April marked the 10th consecutive month of a decrease in arrivals. Arrivals showed a marked increase in recent days, however, with the majority coming from Libya. In terms of search and rescue in the Mediterranean, the Italian Navy and Coast Guard are active as well as the Libyan Navy and Coast Guard, the EU mission EUNAVFOR Med, and NGOs. On Sunday, the Libyan Navy rescued 263 migrants in two operations off the coasts of Zliten and Sabratha, the latter of which included the recovery of 11 bodies. On Monday morning there was a shipwreck off the coast of Libya, where 63 people were rescued by the Libyan Coast Guard and the NGO Proactiva Open Arms. Also on Monday morning, the ship Aquarius - which is being rented by the NGO SOS Mediterranee in partnership with Doctors Without Borders - arrived at the Italian port of Trapani with 537 migrants aboard, including 85 women, 125 children and three newborns. On Sunday in Pozzallo (Ragusa), 79 Tunisians arrived on a wooden boat, and authorities stopped the driver, allegedly a smuggler. An investigation revealed that smugglers had "promised" the crossing with an offer of "bring a friend and travel for free". 

Tensions at the Italy-France border

 Meanwhile, authorities are trying to calm tensions following Sunday's march organised by the movement 'Briser les frontieres' (Break the Borders), aimed at "freeing the borders from fascists", held at the Italy-France border in the Alps. The march was organised after far-right militants of the Generation Identitaire movement erected plastic netting along the border stretching hundreds of metres to prevent the passage of undocumented foreigners. Among the Italians stopped by French police (three men and one woman), there was an anarchist from Cagliari and an anarchist with ties to the far-left militant Askatasuna centre in Turin. Political commentary soon followed, with League leader Matteo Salvini weighing in. "Every once in a while, a journalist tells me 'the Austrians are bad, they control their borders and expel illegals'. They're not bad, it's we who have the government of complicit cretins, because we should be doing the exact same thing," Salvini said. Edoardo Patriarca of the Democratic Party (PD) said Europe "has already known iron curtains and walls". 

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