Data provided by the Italian Ministry of Interior shows that during the first six months of 2015, some 70,354 migrants arrived on Italian shores – a slight increase from the same period in 2014, when migrants rescued at sea totaled 63,884 through June 30.
Over 1,900 migrants have lost their lives in the Mediterranean so far this year, over twice the number during the same period in 2014. But the number of fatalities has started to decrease since May. This is probably due to the large presence of European Union (EU) / Frontex ships in international waters. The enhancement of the EU’s Operation Triton has enabled maritime forces to save more migrants lives in the Channel of Sicily.
But passage continues to be lethal. On Monday, July 6, IOM learned that the remains of five migrants, who were believed to have departed from Libya, were discovered in waters off Tunisia. On Tuesday, July 7, four migrants died, while at least 15 others were reported missing in the Aegean Sea, after a boat carrying migrants sank in waters between Turkey and the Greek islands of Farmakonis and Agathonisi, according to Greek authorities. Four more bodies were discovered off Tunisia on Thursday, July 9.
Late last night word arrived at IOM offices in Geneva and Rome of yet another tragedy, with at least 12 confirmed dead off the Libyan coast. Details remain unconfirmed, but IOM staffers in the field are citing Italian officials who say this newest tragedy occurred approximately 40 miles to the north of Libya.
The operations center of the Italian Coast Guard received in the early afternoon a distress call and dispatched two high-seas patrol vessels, the Dattilo and the Corsi, along with two other ships based in Lampedusa.
IOM staffers are reporting that the Dattilo was the first vessel to reach the area where the distress calls came from. There its crew found four overcrowded rubber dinghies, one of which was described as “partially submerged,” with only its bow remaining above water, and its engine lost.
Rescue operations were carried out immediately as crewmen from the Dattilo managed to save 393 migrants, 106 of whom reportedly had been travelling on the shipwrecked vessel.
The remains of 12 migrants were discovered at the bottom of the rubber dinghy. Those bodies were placed on the deck of the Dattilo, next to some survivors. The Italian Coast Guard continued to patrol the area, on the lookout for possible missing migrants, but none have been recovered yet, either alive or dead, IOM’s chief Rome spokesman, Flavio Di Giacomo, said this morning.
Migrant fatalities across the Mediterranean region this year, as tallied by IOM’s Missing Migrants Project, break down as follows:
|Western Med/Africa route:||18|
The Greek Maritime Ministry announced that Greek and Turkish rescue efforts saved 19 of between 37 and 40 migrants believed to be on board a boat which sank between Turkey and the Greek islands early Thursday. Their nationalities were not known.
Greece is now the largest arrival point, putting a huge strain on the country as it wrestles with one of its worst economic crises in decades.
According to the Hellenic Coast Guard, some 900 people a day have been crossing the Aegean over the past month. During the first week of July, 7,202 migrants arrived in Greece by sea. Their main countries of origin were Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Somalia. The largest numbers came from Syria.
Until 2015, the rise in Mediterranean Sea arrivals was seen primarily in Italy. Over the course of 2014, it received over three quarters of all arrivals by sea (170,000). During all of last year, 34,442 people arrived in Greece, less than one fifth of the total number of arrivals.
In 2015, that picture changed. During the first six months of 2015, 70,354 people arrived in Italy, while 69,000 arrived on the Greek islands – more than the number for whole of 2014.
For Italy, the main countries of origin during the first half of 2015 were: Eritrea (18,676), Nigeria (7,897), Somalia (6,334), Syria (4,271), Gambia (3,593), and Sudan (3,589). These nationalities were also among the top 10 at this time last year.
One major difference has been a significant drop in the number of Syrian nationals arriving in Italy. (There were about 12,000 during the same period in 2014.) Syrians are now primarily using the Eastern Mediterranean route through Turkey and Greece. An estimated 22,582 Syrian nationals reached Greece between January and May 2015.
“Routes are dynamic. The composition of the flows along different routes changes as the numbers continue to increase,” says Federico Soda, Director of the IOM Coordination Office for the Mediterranean in Rome.
“Italy is affected by mixed migration flows, which require different operational responses. The country is experiencing the arrival of not only a significant number of asylum-seekers, but also a large proportion of job-seeking migrants. Irrespective of nationality, both types must be individually screened to determine their status. The boats transporting men, women, and children attempting to reach Europe also often carry vulnerable people, such as victims of trafficking and violence, unaccompanied children, and pregnant women,” he notes.
In order to assist migrants arriving by sea, IOM teams are permanently deployed at key landing points in Italy in Lampedusa, Sicily and the Southern mainland and on the islands of Samos and Lesvos in Greece.
The arrival in Europe of 150,000 migrants is a substantial number, but cannot be described as “an invasion,” considering that Europe is home to over 500 million people, according to Soda. “Lebanon, a country of 4 million people, is hosting 1.5 million Syrian refugees and Turkey is hosting about 2 million,” he notes.