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Large numbers of migrants feared to set sail from Libya to Italy


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A lawmaker from Premier Giorgia Meloni’s far-right party claimed on Sunday that intelligence reports suggest that close to 700,000 migrants are in Libya waiting for a chance to board a ship bound for Italy.

According to Tommaso Foti, the lower house whip for the Brothers of Italy Party, there are 685,000 migrants who are eager to board smugglers’ boats and cross the central Mediterranean Sea, many of whom are detained in Libyan detention facilities.

In 2022, about 105,000 migrants arrived in Italy by sea.

About 17,600 people arrived between January 1 and March 10; some 2,000 of them disembarked at Italian ports in recent days. Even though the COVID-19 pandemic may have resulted in fewer voyages, this is roughly three times as many as for the same time period in either of the two years prior.

More than a thousand migrants were reportedly saved in recent days, according to the Italian coast guard, off the southern mainland. Authorities claim that after departing from Tunisia, hundreds more people arrived on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, which is south of Sicily.

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Authorities have moved hundreds of people by boat and aircraft to other temporary shelters for asylum seekers because the island is unable to accommodate the large number of people who have arrived in such a short period of time.

According to Italian state TV, three more bodies were discovered on Sunday from a shipwreck that occurred on February 26 just offshore the Italian peninsula, bringing the total number of known fatalities to 79 migrants. In choppy seas, a wooden boat that had sailed from Turkey collided with a sandbank off a beach in Calabria, the southernmost region of the Italian peninsula.

Eighty people made it out alive, while an unknown number were reportedly missing and feared dead.

The coast guard should have been called in to save the boat’s passengers when it was first spotted off the coast, according to criticism that Meloni’s government has rejected.

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The prime minister is hoping that a meeting of the European Union, which will take place later this month, will result in tangible support from other EU leaders in dealing with the large number of migrants and asylum seekers who arrive in Mediterranean countries like Greece, Cyprus, Malta, and Spain in addition to Italy.

Europe cannot turn a blind eye, said Foti.

Italy has been attempting, with varying degrees of success, to persuade Libya to put a stop to the launches of rubber dinghies and unseaworthy fishing boats used by people smugglers toward Italian shores. The Libyan coast guard has received training and equipment from Italian governments.

But despite Libya’s quarrelling political and militant factions, the traffickers who run the smuggling rings still carry on their business.

According to representatives of the United Nations migration agency and humanitarian organizations, passengers whose ships are turned away by the Libyan coast guard frequently are sent back to detention facilities where they run the risk of suffering abuse, including torture, until their families can raise the funds for the migrants to embark on another voyage by sea.

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The government of Meloni has made it more difficult for organizations that run rescue boats to perform numerous rescues in the waters off Libya by enacting regulations that make the boats land migrants in northern Italian ports first, delaying their return to sea.

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