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News Analysis: Italy suffers from migrant problems: experts

English.news.cn   2014-02-06 06:10:08

by Eric J. Lyman

ROME, Feb. 5 (Xinhua) -- Immigration from migrants rose dramatically in January, according to statistics released by the Italian government Wednesday.

The significant rise in the influx of economic and political refugees on Italy's shores, only adds to the government's woes, according to experts given Italy's government is already struggling from unpredictable political backing in parliament, budget problems, and slow economic growth.

"The initial problem is not Italy's: it is caused by economic and political problems in North Africa or elsewhere," said Stefano Del Campo, an Italian consultant with the United Nations refugee agency. "But the end result is really Italy's problem because the country is so often the point of entry for these migrants."

Italy is so often a European point of entry for the migrants because its southernmost islands -- most notably the island of Lampedusa, which is far closer to Africa than to the Italian mainland -- are relatively easy to get to. Often, once free on Italian soil, they move on to other parts of Europe.

Italy has sought help from other European countries in dealing with its migrant issues, and although talks are ongoing, little progress has been made on that front. In the meantime, the tide of economic and political migrants is dramatically rising.

According to the latest statistics, more than 2,000 migrants landed on Italy's shores in January alone -- that compared to just 2017 in January 2013. A total of 42,925 migrants -- including around 4,000 children -- reached Italy by water last year, a 325 percent increase from 2012. Those figured don't even include those who died trying to reach Italian land.

A total of 2,925 boats of various sizes reached Italian waters in 2013, the government said.

All but around 5,000 of the migrants landed in the southern Italian island region of Sicily and smaller islands nearby. Nearly 15,000 landed on Lampedusa alone.

"In 2013, Italy was subject to an incessant and massive influx of migrants from North Africa and the Middle East," Filippo Bubbico, deputy minister of the interior told parliament Wednesday.

Bubbico, who said the increase was mostly due to increased political instability in those regions combined with the ongoing economic crisis, predicted the figures could be much higher this year.

Bubbico said more than a fourth of the migrants were Syria. That is a 2,000 percent increase from 2012 -- reflecting that country's bloody civil war. Most of the migrants set off from Libya, Egypt, or Turkey, however, meaning they endured a long land journey before taking to the seas.

Del Campo, the analyst, said that if the numbers keep rising, the impact on Italy could become severe.

"Already Lampedusa is feeling a tremendous strain, and Sicily, which is much larger, is suffering as well," Del Campo said. "But this problem could become large enough to have an impact on Italy as a whole. There is no end in sight."

Editor: yan
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