EU: Italy under “huge pressure” from “dire” refugee crisis

Migration commissioner Avramopoulos says minister Minniti has done an “excellent job” but warns the situation in Libya is worse than it seems

Pubblicato il 18/11/2017
Ultima modifica il 18/11/2017 alle ore 14:17

Italy remains under “huge pressure” from the refugee emergency despite initial results in stemming the flows of migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean, said Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU commissioner for migration and home affairs. 

“Italy is one of the most affected countries in Europe, even now,” the former Greek foreign minister told La Stampa during a news briefing at the EU delegation in Washington DC.  


“The situation in Libya, I have to be frank with you, is not good at all. On the contrary, it’s dire,” Avramopoulos said, after attending with Security Union commissioner Julian King a EU-US ministerial meeting on justice and home affairs. 


Minniti has done “excellent job”  

Avramopoulos praised Interior Minister Marco Minniti for trying to curb the phenomenon, but said the priority remains to restore political stability in Libya, a country still divided where dozens of independent militias operate, often with the smugglers. “I’d like to praise Minniti’s personal commitment and the excellent job he is doing right now. That’s why we managed to see a slight difference compared to what the situation was before. But we don’t say we are happy with the situation,” the Greek politician said, adding that Italy is fully supported by the EU, both financially and politically. “I would say that in Italy the situation is worse compared to the situation in Greece,” he said. 


Arrivals drop, fatalities still high  

The European Union policy, led by Italy, to help the Libyan authorities intercept and return migrants to the African country has been criticized by the UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, who said migrants are held in “inhuman” conditions. Around 159,000 migrants and refugees entered Europe by the sea in 2017 as of November 15. Of these, 75% arrived in Italy and the remainder landed in Greece, Cyprus and Spain, according to IOM, the UN Migration Agency. The number is below 343,158 arrivals across the region in the same period last year


Despite a drop in the number of fatalities in the Mediterranean - 2,982 this year so far compared to 4,572 in 2016 - tragedies at sea continue to happen. A total of 90 people reportedly died, including dozens of African women, in a shipwreck off the Libyan coast on November 3. A funeral service for 26 girls found dead by rescuers took place in the southern Italian port city of Salerno on Friday. 


“The flows are putting Italy under a huge pressure. But it is not only about migration and refugees, it has to do with the chaotic situation in this part of the world. As long as this situation remains, there’s no hope to find a solution,” Avramopoulos said. “It is our priority to do more in order to bring back stability and Italy is playing a very important role,” he added. 



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