Italy receives 34 thousand migrants last year

(Photo: V4 Agency)

By: V4 Agency

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, Italy saw the arrival of three times as many migrants in 2020. Vessels operated by pro-migration NGOs continue to transport newcomers from Libya by the hundreds and the so-called quarantine ships may also be banned.

In 2020, Italy became the most popular destination for migrants with three times as many reaching its islands than in the previous year, even despite the border closures and the pandemic-related restrictions.

According to figures put out by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 34,154 migrants reached Italian shores – most on the island of Lampedusa – which is a significant increase from the 11,471 registered in 2019. UNHCR data also show that the largest single national group of all new arrivals in the southern state were Tunisians, at 38 per cent. The stats also clearly show that most newcomers entered the country completely unnoticed, as only 4,500 migrants were “rescued” by the Italian coast guard or various NGOs, while 30,000 went undetected at least until the country’s coastal waters.

Although 2020 saw several new restrictions which incidentally hampered the human trafficking operations of NGOs on the Mediterranean, these regulations no longer pose an obstacle, therefore ships like the Ocean Viking are again bringing migrants into the EU by the hundreds. Posting to social media on Saturday, SOS Mediterranee said they had gathered passengers from four more dinghies in two days and are now seeking mooring permits with 374 asylum seekers on board. The process of permit issuance has been slowed considerably during the pandemic, which is why the Italian government has set up so-called quarantine vessels to control the situation.

Of course, the situation has been compounded by activist pressure. Earlier this year 150 separate NGOs challenged the use of quarantine ships and demanded that the government abandon the practice and allow for the migrants to disembark on Italian shores.