ROME – Ports remain closed in Italy, but the end of lockdown measures, combined with favorable weather conditions, have authorities concerned that a new wave of immigrant arrivals is imminent. Intelligence sources have said more than 20,000 migrants are ready to depart from North Africa.
Arrivals of migrants on Italian shores never really stopped during the months of lockdown imposed because of the coronavirus, but ports were closed as Italy declared them unsafe, and NGO vessels stopped patrolling the Mediterranean because of the emergency. Nonetheless, according to the Italian Interior Ministry, more than 6,000 migrants have already reached Italy this year compared to 2,000 for all of last year.
Now, with the numbers of new coronavirus infections decreasing day by day and no longer such a concern, fears are mounting that the number of migrants that will soon take to the seas for Italy from North Africa will increase dramatically. Good weather and calm seas during the summer will also make it easier for traffickers to make the crossings.
Charity vessels have resumed patrolling the Mediterranean to try to provide assistance to migrants in difficulty. The Mare Jonio ship of the Italian NGO Mediterranea Saving Humans set sail this week from the Sicilian port of Trapani on its eighth mission.
The Mare Jonio’s spokesperson said the vessel was headed to the central Mediterranean to monitor and denounce the violations of human rights that continue to take place. She added that they know they will be encountering war refugees and victims of torture who are left to die at sea.
In the latest tragedy at sea, the bodies of more than 60 dead African migrants were recovered this week after their vessel sank after leaving Tunisia and heading to Italy. The United Nations Refugee Agency says that so far this year the number of sea departures from Tunisia to Europe has increased fourfold.