Sharp drop in number of migrants entering Italy by sea

The number of migrants arriving in Italy from the Mediterranean has dropped sharply, according to the European Union’s border agency.

Sharp drop in number of migrants entering Italy by sea
An NGO rescue boat arrives in Salerno. Photo: Carlo Hermann/AFP.

In September 2017 some 5,600 people arrived in Italy via the central Mediterranean route, Frontex said on Wednesday. The figure has fallen by over two-thirds compared to the same month last year.

“The third quarter of 2017 saw the lowest number of irregular migrants in the Central Mediterranean for the July-September period since 2014,” the agency said.

In total, around 104,800 people are known to have arrived in Italy across the Mediterranean in the first nine months of 2017 – 21% fewer than in the same period in 2016.

The same decrease was seen throughout the entire EU, where Frontex counted a total of 156,000 illegal border crossings between January and September 2017, a drop of 64% year-on-year.

Italy has taken unprecedented measures to reduce the numbers of people arriving on its shores, including making a deal with authorities in Libya to help crack down on human traffickers and train Libyan coast guards to turn back boats carrying migrants from North Africa to Europe.

While the Italian government calls its policy a model for the rest of Europe, the United Nations' refugee agency says tens of thousands of migrants and refugees have been left in dire conditions in Libya.