600,000 Migrants Are Lined Up Along North African Coast and Ready to Enter Europe This Summer Warns Italy
Hannah Roberts, Daily Mail (London), April 4, 2014
Up to 600,000 would-be migrants are in position to set sail from North Africa, in an onslaught on Europe’s coastline, the Italian government has warned.
Italy, with its southernmost province just 80 miles from Libya, is the gateway for thousands of clandestine migrants washing up on Europe’s shores, since the Arab Spring left swathes of Northern Africa in chaos.
More than 40,000 made the crossing last year, many on overcrowded and dangerous wooden boats. Investigators estimate that 20 per cent ultimately end up in Britain.
Italy’s Home Secretary Angelino Alfano said: ‘According to our information between 300,000 and 600,000 people are on the other side of the Mediterranean on the North African coastline, waiting to cross sooner or later.’
Speaking at a conference on immigration in Palermo he said that Italy would ‘fight’ the rising tide.
‘The frontiers of the Mediterranean are European and we must all protect them,’ he added.
In the first three months of this year 11,000 have landed in Italy, a seven-fold increase on last year, with the season for crossings about to begin as the weather improves.
The boom, he said, was as a result of the instability of the regimes in Sub-Saharan Africa and the growing strength of criminal organisations and traffickers.
At present clandestine migrants landing in the EU are obliged to remain in the country where they first seek asylum.
But southern Mediterranean counties have complained that just six or seven EU members including Greece and Malta bear the brunt of ‘boat people’ washing up on their shores.
Italy planned to use its presidency of the EU starting this year to have the rules modified so that migrants can proceed to northern Europe, Mr Alfano said.
Last year following the tragic shipwreck off the island of Lampedusa, that claimed more than 300 lives, European ministers were asked to pitch in to lend ships and aircraft to EU border agency Frontex to help stem the tide of migrants.