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Mare Nostrum: Italy says 800,000 migrants poised to arrive

Border police say reception system ‚already at breaking point‘

By Sandra Cordon ANSAmed – ROME, APRIL 29 –

At least 800,000 migrants are about to depart the North African coast for Europe, while the reception system in Italy – the first landing point for the vast majority of these – is already on the brink of collapse from tens of thousands of earlier arrivals, official said Tuesday. „We no longer have a place to take them, and locals are overwhelmed by the constant arrival of foreigners,“ Giovanni Pinto, head of the Immigration and Border Police agency, told a joint meeting of the foreign and defence committees in the Italian Senate.
As many as 25,000 migrants have landed on Italian shores to date this year, almost a ten-fold increase over the 2,500 reported during the same period in 2013 and nearing 2011’s record levels of 62,000 migrants, Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said earlier this month.

That has stretched already-strained resources in Italy, which only emerged from its deepest recession since the Second World War late last year, to the breaking point, particularly as it comes after record-breaking levels of migration in 2013. Italy is appealing for international help in the face of the waves of newcomers fleeing their homelands in numbers that tend to increase in spring and summer months as sea conditions improve.

„Europe should know that Italy is a welcoming country, but we cannot accommodate everyone,“ Alfano said in an interview Tuesday with Rai television morning chat show ‚Unomattina‘. He added that 200 human traffickers believed to be responsible for smuggling thousands across the sea to Italy in dangerous conditions have been arrested.

One day earlier, Premier Matteo Renzi vowed to request more assistance from the European Union and the United Nations on tackling undocumented immigration during a special meeting of his cabinet to consider emergency migrant issues.

Part of the problem, said Pinto, is that many migrants who land in Italy are fleeing failed governments in Libya, civil war in Syria, and hostilities in other parts of the Middle East and North Africa. That means the Italian government has no corresponding authorities to turn to for help in returning the migrants. „We aren’t dealing with a government that can establish treaties,“ said Pinto, refering to the case of Libya in particular. „We have no interlocutors … There’s no prime minister … there are no ministers,“ he said.

He also praised the efforts of the Mare Nostrum program, which was set up to prevent deaths at sea following two migrant ship disasters in October 2013 in which as many as 400 people died. „Surely the operation Mare Nostrum has given excellent results,“ said Pinto.In contrast, some opposition politicians complain that Mare Nostrum only encourages migrants to risk their lives and cross the Mediterranean, often in rickety, overcrowded boats.

There are also concerns that it encourages human smuggling as well. Northern League Secretary Matteo Salvini said last week that Italy must suspend these operations because they are too expensive – about 300,000 euros daily, he said – and represent an „invasion“ of Italian shores. Salvini, whose party has taken strong stances against immigration, called last month on allies across Europe to join the League in fighting „mass immigration“ in the lead-up to May’s European Parliament elections.

In response to the rising levels of dangerous migration, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR has said that Italy must have more financial help.The UNHCR has said that the Mediterranean is one of the busiest seas in the world, and urged European Union members to work together on solutions to the migrant situation, which is expected to worsen.


via Italy says 800,000 migrants poised to arrive – Politics – ANSAMed.it

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