Europe’s unrelenting migrant crisis is threatening to overwhelm Italy, even as the tide of flimsy boats washing up on Greece’s shores has slowed to a trickle.
More than 85,000 people fleeing poverty and violence have risked the perilous Mediterranean crossing to reach Italy this year, a 20% increase over the same period in 2016, according to United Nations figures. At least 2,150 others have died trying.
Most of these migrants come from sub-Saharan Africa. According to UNHCR, the top two nationalities arriving in Italy by sea in 2016 were Nigerians (21%) and Eritreans (11%). Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, is facing its worst economic crisis in decades and a deadly uprising by the militant group Boko Haram, while Eritrea has a notoriously repressive government that migrants accuse of imposing a system of forced labor and governing by fear.
Italian officials, who have been among the more welcoming in Europe, threatened last week to close their ports to rescue ships operated by humanitarian groups that weren’t flying the Italian flag unless they received more help from other EU members.
Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said, “Italy has never ducked its commitments and it does not intend to do so. But he added, “We are under pressure, and we ask for a concrete contribution from the Europeans.”
[Los Angeles Times]