Factbox-Migrant arrivals in Italy on the rise, despite high danger
ROME (Reuters) - The shipwreck of a boat off southern Italy has killed dozens of migrants and cast a spotlight on the perilous journeys made by thousands of people who cross the Mediterranean and come to Italy.
The vast majority set sail from North Africa but some leave from Turkey. Successive Italian governments have tried to curb the numbers. Here are some facts about the situation.
Interior Ministry data shows 13,067 boat migrants have arrived in Italy between Jan. 1 and Feb. 23, 2023 against 5,273 in the corresponding period of 2022, and 4,156 the year before that. Some 861 of the migrants registered this year were unaccompanied minors.
In 2022, 105,129 migrants reached Italy in total, up from 67,477 in 2021 and 34,154 in 2020. The record number of arrivals in a single year was 181,436 in 2016. Some 13,386 of the migrants in 2022 were registered as unaccompanied minors.
The U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) said in 2022 51% of migrant sea crossings to Italy departed from Libya, 31% from Tunisia and 15% from Turkey. Tiny numbers left from Lebanon, Algeria and Syria.
Of the arrivals so far this year, the top country of origin is Guinea (1,654), followed by the Ivory Coast (1,511), Pakistan (997), Tunisia (846), Egypt (490) and Bangladesh (447).
In 2022, the top country of origin was Egypt (20,542), followed by Tunisia (18,148), Bangladesh (14,982), Syria (8,594) and Afghanistan (7,241).
DEATHS AND MISSING
The United Nations Missing Migrants Project has registered more than 17,000 deaths and disappearances in the central Mediterranean since 2014, making it by far the most dangerous migrant crossing in the world.
More than 220 have died or disappeared this year, it estimates.
In 2017, the then centre-left Italian government signed a deal with the Libyan authorities aimed at combatting irregular migration, human trafficking and strengthening border security. The number of arrivals to Italy fell sharply as a result, but human rights organisations denounced the accord, saying it left thousands of migrant hopefuls trapped in Libyan detention camps where torture was routine.
Migrant arrivals stayed low in subsequent years, partly as a result of the COVID pandemic. However, they have started to rise again and Italy's right-wing government of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, which won elections in 2022, has vowed to once again reduce the migrant flows.
WHAT HAS MELONI DONE SO FAR
One of her government's first acts was to introduce a controversial law for rescue charity ships, saying they served as a de facto taxi service for migrants and seeking to limit the time rescue boats can stay at sea. The government has also forced them to dock at distant ports adding to the time and cost of their missions. The move has sharply restricted rescue ships' operations, but migrants keep arriving under their own steam.
Meloni has also urged the European Union to sign a deal with Libya, mirroring one reached with Turkey in 2016, whereby Brussels pays Ankara to house refugees and stop them leaving for Europe. No such deal is imminent. In the meantime, Meloni and her ministers have visited Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt, seeking a series of agreements, including on migration.
(Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)