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Migrant Crisis: A Record Number of Migrants Reaching Italy by Boat from North Africa in 2016

In the past three years, Italy has recorded nearly half a million migrant arrivals. Many have fled war, poverty or political oppression

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FILE - Migrants, who tried to flee to Europe, travel in a dinghy after they were stopped by Libyan coast guards and made to head to Tripoli. VOA

November 29, 2016: A record number of migrants have reached Italy by boat from North Africa in 2016, according to official data, as pressure on Italy’s shelter and asylum systems grows.

Italy has borne the brunt of new arrivals since the implementation in March of an agreement between the European Union and Turkey to curb the flow of migrants sailing for Greece.

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As of November 28, some 171,299 boat migrants had reached Italy’s shores, the Interior Ministry said, compared to the previous record of 170,100 for all of 2014.

There is no sign of a let-up in people crossing. Some 1,400 more migrants were rescued from rubber and wooden boats attempting to cross the central Mediterranean during Monday, Italy’s coast guard said.

In the past three years, Italy has recorded nearly half a million migrant arrivals. Many have fled war, poverty or political oppression.

The influx has brought a record number of asylum requests this year in Italy where more than 176,000 asylum seekers now live in shelters. This is putting the country’s asylum process and legal system under increasing pressure.

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While there had been hope that a government formed in Tripoli in March would help stop people smuggling, it has not.

Libya remains fertile ground for traffickers as local militias and a rival government in Tobruk compete for power.

Most of the migrants who have come to Italy this year are Africans of various nationalities. Some 36,000 Nigerians have made the trip, about 21 percent of the total, along with 20,000 Eritreans and more than 12,000 from Guinea.

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An estimated 4,663 migrants have died in the Mediterranean this year as a record number of unaccompanied minors have come to Italy. As of the end of October, almost 23,000 unaccompanied minors — mostly teenage boys — had arrived, compared with 13,000 during the whole of 2014.

During the more stormy winter months, arrivals in the past have dropped, but rescuers are concerned this year that there will not be enough vessels to go to their aid. (VOA)

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Italy: Anti-Migrant Populist Wins Big

Matteo Salvini was quick to thank Italians after results of Sunday’s vote in the European elections

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Italy, Anti-Migrant Populist
Interior Minister and Deputy Premier Matteo Salvini arrives for a press conference at the League's headquarters, in Milan, Italy, May 27, 2019. VOA

The big winner in Italy’s vote in the European elections was Matteo Salvini’s anti-migrant League party which took one third of the Italian vote, strengthening his grip on government. His coalition partner, the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement was the big loser. After just one year in government, the result turned around the balance of power between the two ruling parties but Salvini immediately pledged not to dissolve the ruling coalition.

Matteo Salvini was quick to thank Italians after results of Sunday’s vote in the European elections showed him ahead by far. His victory came as no surprise as his party quickly emerged as the undisputable winner and first party in Italy, garnering more than 34 percent of the vote. His coalition partner, the 5-Star Movement took half that.

It was a sensational result for a regional party that garnered just six percent of the votes in the last EU election five years ago. Salvini, before the vote, made it clear he would not change the existing coalition government, saying “my word is worth more than some votes.” He pledged to get back down to work immediately and not dissolve the ruling coalition or reshuffle the Italian government.

Luigi di Maio, leader of the 5-Star Movement issued a brief statement blaming his party’s poor showing on low voter turnout adding “now heads down and let’s work”. But voter turnout in Italy was only slightly down from the last EU elections.

Italy, Anti-Migrant Populist
The big winner in Italy’s vote in the European elections was Matteo Salvini’s anti-migrant League party. Pixabay

Speaking at the League headquarters in Milan during the night, Salvini said “a new Europe is born.”

He said, “Not only is Italy the first party in Italy, but Marine Le Pen is the first party in France, Nigel Farage is the first country in Britain. So, Italy, France, Britain: it’s a sign of a Europe that is changing.”

Salvini added that he was proud that “the League is taking part in this new European Renaissance.” With the League possibly obtaining the largest number of seats by a single party in the new European parliament, Salvini said his party would be pushing for an ‘economic’ portfolio — agriculture, competition or energy — for the next EU commissioner.

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But the Italian leader’s exultation is tempered by results elsewhere in Europe where populists made only modest gains. They won just under a quarter of seats in the European parliament – far lower than the the one third that nationalists on the continent had hoped to get. (VOA)