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Italy Heads for New Migrant Crisis with Record-Breaking First Quarter

The latest official statistics on international migration into Italy point to a record-setting year even higher than 2016, at the height of Europe’s migrant crisis.

According to the Italian Interior Ministry, a total of 26,927 migrants have reached Italian shores in the first three months of 2023, whereas in 2016, Italy had received 18,777 by the same date.

As weather got warmer, more migrants attempted the perilous crossing of the Mediterranean Sea and the country went on to receive a total of 181,436 migrants by January 31, 2016. If the pattern is repeated in 2023, Italy will be on a pace to break its prior immigration record.

As a point of comparison, during the first quarter of 2022, the total immigration figure into Italy was 6,543, for 2021 the number was 6,334, for 2020 the figure was 1553, in the first three months of 2019 there were 0, and in 2018 the number was 6296.

This means that more migrants have entered Italy during the first quarter of 2023 (26,927) than the total of the last five years combined for the same period (20,726).

“Mass immigration harms those who have the right to international protection and do not find help because the quotas are covered by those who arrive illegally,” said Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni just last week. “On this I am sure I have the majority of Italians with me.”

“We cannot sit by helplessly waiting for the next shipwreck, an inherent danger for trips organized by unscrupulous smugglers,” she said. “The borders of Italy are the borders of Europe.”

Meloni has also warned that NGO activity helps people smugglers, insisting that NGOs are a “driving factor” for illegal migration. “I think a serious nation cannot tolerate these illegal phenomena,” she said.

The “approach of some NGOs, which undertake a mainly ideological activity that has little to do with international laws on rescue at sea, finds a natural convergence with the interests of traffickers,” she stated.

For his part, however, Pope Francis has encouraged the work of a major NGO engaged in seaborne rescues just as critics are accusing such NGOs of promoting illegal immigration, abetting human traffickers, and complicating humanitarian efforts.

On March 22, Francis received in audience members of the “Mediterranean Saving Humans” group, which operates a 50-year-old rescue vessel called the “Mare Jonio,” with which they pick up people stranded at sea and shuttle them to Italy.

Last Sunday, the Italian Coast Guard released a statement warning that such NGOs are harming rescue efforts by “overloading the communication systems of the National Rescue Coordination Center, overlapping and duplicating the signals of the already present air assets of the Italian State.”

Frontex, the European Union border agency, has said that the activities of NGO ships in the Mediterranean Sea have acted as an attraction for migrants to make the dangerous voyage to Europe.

Frontex said last December that these rescue NGOs increase the number of migrants able to cross as people smugglers are often aware of the locations of the vessels and can work that into their plans.

“Criminal networks try to maximize their profits often by putting migrants’ lives at risk and they take into account all factors when planning their smuggling operations, including weather conditions, proximity to NGO and member state vessels, the situation in the countries of arrival, etc.,” a source within the agency said.


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