GENEVA, AUGUST 22 – IOM, the UN Migration Agency, reports that 120,137 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2017 through 20 August, with almost 82 per cent arriving in Italy and the remainder divided between Greece, Cyprus and Spain. This compares with 269,856 arrivals across the region through 20 August 2016.
IOM Rome reported Sunday, 20 August, that according to official figures of the Italian Ministry of Interior, 97,931 migrants have arrived by sea to Italy this year, which is 5.55 per cent less than last year in the same period.
In the meanwhile, according to Reuters, an armed group is stopping migrant boats from setting off across the Mediterranean from Sabratah, a city west of Tripoli that has been a springboard for people smugglers, causing a sudden drop in departures over the past month.
The revelation throws new light on the sharp reduction in migrant arrivals from Italy, which took over from the Aegean route as the main focus of European concerns in the crisis.
Arrivals in Italy from North Africa, the main route for migration to Europe this year, dropped by more than 50 percent in July from a year earlier, and August arrivals so far are down even further. July and August are peak months for migrant boats because of favorable sea conditions.
Sources in Sabratha, 70 km (45 miles) west of the capital, told Reuters that the sudden drop has been caused by a new force in the seaside city, which is preventing migrants from leaving, often by locking them up.
The group in Sabratha “works on the ground, the beach, to prevent the migrants leaving on boats towards Italy,” said a civil society organizer from the city, speaking on condition of anonymity. The group is made up of several hundred “civilians, policemen, army figures,” he said. It is conducting a “very strong campaign” that was launched by a “former mafia boss”, said a second Sabratha source who follows smuggling activity closely. (@OnuItalia)