Italy estimates 680K migrants might cross sea from Libya

Rome –

Nearly 700,000 migrants are in Libya waiting for an opportunity to reach Italy by sea, according to intelligence reports, a lawmaker from Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s far-right party said on Sunday, while UN migration officials said. He said the numbers were unreliable.

Tommaso Foti, a member of parliament for the Italian friar party, told television channel Tgcom24 that Italian intelligence said there were 685,000 migrants in Libya, many of them in camps and sent to the Mediterranean on smuggler ships. He said he aspires to sail the central region. .

Meloni will manage the large numbers of migrants and asylum seekers coming to Mediterranean countries such as Greece, Cyprus, Malta and Spain, as well as Greece, Cyprus, Malta and Spain, at a European Union meeting later this month. I hope that concrete solidarity will emerge from the leaders of the EU countries to do so. Italy.

“Europe cannot turn a blind eye,” Foti said.

While the intelligence agency’s assessment has caused alarming headlines in Italy, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration said the figure puts Libya’s cap on the estimated number of migrants and those actually seeking to make their way to Europe from there. I warned you that you look confused.

“This figure appears to be an estimate of our total presence in Libya,” Flavio Di Giacomo told the Associated Press in Rome.

But of that number, “only a minimal part wants to leave, and only a minimal part has managed to leave” for Europe, Di Giacomo said. Many migrants in Libya, for example, come from his two African countries on the southern border of Libya, Niger and Chad, and eventually return to their homelands, he said.

The Italian intelligence estimate was “the last in a string of alarms seen in the last decade or twelve years, which turned out to be false,” Di Giacomo said. “I don’t think the numbers are entirely reliable.”

About 105,000 migrants arrived in Italy by sea in 2022.

Some 17,600 people have arrived since the beginning of the year until March 10, including thousands who have disembarked in Italian ports in the past few days. This is about three times the number for the same period over the past two years, although the COVID-19 pandemic may have reduced voyages.

Italy’s coast guard said it had rescued more than 1,000 migrants from the southern mainland in recent days. Hundreds arrived on the small Italian island of Lampedusa, south of Sicily, after departing from Tunisia, authorities said.

With the island struggling to care for so many people arriving in such a short time, authorities aim to move hundreds by boat or plane to temporary shelters for asylum seekers. I’m here.

Three more bodies were found on Sunday in a shipwreck off the coast of the Italian peninsula on February 26, increasing the known death toll in the disaster to 79 migrants, according to Italian state television. bottom. A wooden ship sailing from Turkey has crashed into a sandbar in rough waters off the coast of Calabria at the tip of the Italian peninsula.

There are 80 survivors, and an unknown number of people are presumed missing and dead.

Meloni’s government has rejected criticism that the Coast Guard should have been dispatched to rescue the boat’s passengers when the ship was first spotted offshore.

For years, Italy has been lobbying Libya to stop launching fishing boats and rubber boats into its shores that cannot withstand the voyages of smugglers, with limited success. not. The Italian government is training and equipping the Libyan Coast Guard.

However, the traffickers behind the smuggling ring continue to operate amid political and extremist conflicts in Libya.

Passengers whose ships are turned back by the Libyan coast guard are often returned to detention camps, including torture, until their families raise enough money for the migrants to depart, according to the International Organization for Migration and humanitarian groups. at risk of abuse. sea ​​again.

The Meloni government has adopted rules that make it difficult for humanitarian groups that operate rescue boats to conduct many rescue operations off the coast of Libya, forcing ships to disembark migrants in northern Italian ports and delay their return to sea.

IOM spokesman Di Giacomo said many migrants actually left Libya on smugglers’ ships, but that “people dying at sea is an alarming humanitarian trend.” .

The United Nations Organization for Migration estimates that about 300 people are presumed dead or missing this year after trying to cross the dangerous Central Mediterranean route.

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