Monday

21st Jan 2019

Italy reports upsurge in migrants crossing from Libya

The Italian coastguard reported on Monday (28 March) it had rescued 1,482 migrants off the Libyan coast in two days, a new indication that the number of migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Italy is on the rise.

Some analysts had feared that the EU's focus on shutting down the so-called Balkan route would force migrants to aim for other ways of getting into Europe.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

Last week, the United Nations refugee agency said in 2016 almost 14,500 people had arrived in Italy via Libya, which was 42.5 percent more than in the same period last year, AFP news agency reported.

Crossings into Europe are watched closely by EU governments to see any side-effects of a migrant swap deal with Turkey was concluded at a summit in Brussels earlier this month. The deal, aimed at stemming the flow of people via the Aegean sea, came into effect on 20 March.

Since then, Greece has reported falling numbers of people arriving on Greek islands. On Thursday (24 March) the Greek government said according to Kathimerini newspaper that no migrants had arrived at all, although the following day 161 people arrived, and on Saturday 78.

However, it is too soon to say whether the drop was caused by the EU-Turkey deal, or other factors like difficult weather. Also, the crossing attempts from Libya may be unrelated to the EU-Turkey deal, although they will be considered in any assessment of whether European policies to stem migration flows are working.

Meanwhile, there are still around 50,000 migrants in Greece hoping to move further to the north, mostly to Germany.

Over the weekend, the German paper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported that smugglers have begun offering new routes, after countries along the so-called Balkan route had increased border security.

The paper said on Sunday that smugglers offer trips from Greece across the Adriatic Sea to Italy, for between €3,000 and €5,000.

For his part, French defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned last week that roughly 800,000 migrants were waiting in Libya to make the crossing to Europe.

A spokesperson for the Tripoli navy has since labelled that claim as “exaggerated”.

On Tuesday, EU commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said the “sharp decrease” of migrants on the Turkey-Greek route was “encouraging”.

“Less than a 1,000 people arrived last week, compared to average daily arrivals of 2,000 a day in previous weeks,” said Bertaud.

She also noted the commission would “continue to monitor closely” the developments along the Mediterranean route from Libya.

“Our latest information in line with [EU border agency] Frontex is there has not been anything to suggest that there is a significant increase along this route yet.”

EU-Turkey deal gets reality check

The EU-Turkey deal that came into force on Sunday has not deterred migrants crossing the Aegean sea on its first day. But it raises many questions as Greek and Turkish legal frameworks still need to be set up.

Eight EU states take migrants stranded on NGO boats

France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Romania have agreed to relocate the 49 migrants stuck on two NGO boats moored, for almost three weeks, off Malta's coast.

News in Brief

  1. Germany sent 8,658 asylum-seekers to other EU states
  2. Poll: Macron popularity up four percent
  3. 'Economy is broken' says Oxfam in global inequality report
  4. Vestager under pressure to allow Siemens-Alstom deal
  5. Teargas and clashes in Athens over Macedonia name change
  6. EU trade commissioner asks for green light for US talks
  7. Slovakia's commissioner takes unpaid leave to run for presidency
  8. Minority elects Lofven as prime minister of Sweden

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us