MS Risk Blog

Italy Pleads to EU for Help with Migrants

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According to sources familiar with the mater, late last month Italy appealed to the European Union (EU) for help in taking in African migrants, announcing the possibility of closing its ports to humanitarian rescue ships in a bid to pressure EU partners.

An Italian government source has disclosed that Rome’s EU ambassador, Maurizio Massari, met with EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos and told him that “the situation we are facing is serious and Europe cannot turn its back.” Meanwhile another Italian government source has stated that “the idea of blocking humanitarian ships flying foreign flags from returning to Italian ports has been discussed, with the source adding that the move may force EU partners to take them instead because many of the charities that operate rescue ships are based in other EU countries, including Germany and Malta. The source noted that “Italy has reached saturation point,” adding that Rome had planned for 200,00 beds for asylum-seekers and that those were almost all taken.

Since 2014, Italy has brought in over half a million boat migrants, with a record 181,000 arriving in the country last year. This year, arrivals are already up by about 14 percent on the same period last year to 75,000. Italy has been the main point of arrival for mostly African migrants to European shores this year, with more boats being sent out on an almost daily basis. All of those rescued off the coast of Libya have been brought o Italy, often by private charities. Meanwhile Italy’s neighbours have closed their own borders in a bid to try to keep migrants from moving north as they did in the past. Furthermore, some EU countries, like Hungary and Poland, have fully refused to host some asylum-seekers to east the burden on Italy and Greece, which is another frontline country.

Frustrations are growing throughout Italy with the migration situation. Late last month, voters punished Italy’s ruling Democratic Party in local elections, opting instead for centre-right rivals led by the anti-immigrant Northern League and four-time former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, all of whom want Italy to take a tougher stance on migration. While for the past two years EU members have not been able to find an accord about moving asylum-seekers from Italy and Greece, late last month the bloc’s 28 leaders agreed that the two southern states should get more help in order to manage arrivals. According to an EU official, the bloc’s European Commission will now give more emergency funding to Italy, adding that it wants EU states to put up more money to assist African countries in the hopes that better conditions at home will keep people from leaving. According to an official, this week at a meeting in Tallin, EU migration ministers are due to discuss Rome’s request to have EU peers let some of the boats arriving with migrants disembark in their ports.

According to Flavio Di Giacomo, spokesman for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Rome, since Saturday 24 June some 11,000 migrants have been pulled from unsafe and overcrowded boats, noting however that the overall numbers for the month of June are in line with last year and the year before. On Wednesday 28 June, an Italian navy boat brought about 700 migrants to the Sicilian port of Pozzallo, including an infant boy who was born on a migrant boat but who died from respiratory problems after he and his mother were rescued.