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Migration to Italy - Statistics & Facts

Due to its central position in the Mediterranean Sea, Italy represents one of the first countries reached by immigrants in the attempt to arrive in Europe. In the last decades, immigration figures have fluctuated. In the early 1990s, refugees from the Balkans and North Africa represented the largest immigration flows to Italy. After the fall of Communism in Albania in 1990, the Albanian immigration to Italy grew significantly. Indeed, nowadays Albanian residents in Italy represent the second-largest foreign population in the country. Similarly, Moroccans are also among the largest foreign communities in Italy.

In the years between 2014 and 2021, the number of immigrants who arrived by sea in Italy peaked in 2016. That year, the country recorded 181 thousand arrivals. In particular, in October 2016, 27.4 thousand individuals reached the Italian coasts by crossing the Mediterranean Sea. Afterwards, this figure experienced a decrease. During 2020, the number of arrivals reached 34 thousand. Geographically, South Italian ports were mostly affected by the arrivals. In 2018, the main port where migrants arrived was Pozzallo, a town in Sicily, located directly on the Mediterranean Sea. The Italian island of Lampedusa is also a major European entry port for immigrants’ arrival from North Africa. In fact, this Sicilian island is geographically closer to the North African continent than to Italy.

Data on the nationalities declared upon arrival reveal that Africa and South Asia are among the most frequent origin countries for immigrants. More specifically, in 2021, Tunisia, Bangladesh, Egypt, and Ivory Coast were the four most common countries of origin. Indeed, arrivals from Africa, Middle-East and South Asia make up the highest share of nationalities receiving refugee status in Italy.

A look at the continent-specific asylum data shows that Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and Indian are the most frequent citizenships of asylum seekers from Asia. Among asylum applications made by people originating from the Middle East, the most common places of origin are Iraq, Egypt, and Afghanistan. A large number of applications made in Italy are submitted by Latin Americans as well. The highest number of asylum seekers from Latin America came from El Salvador, Peru, Venezuela, and Colombia.

The sea routes undertaken by migrants to reach Europe are extremely risky. The Mediterranean Sea recorded the largest number of deaths and missing cases of people who migrated worldwide. However, recording the deaths in the Mediterranean Sea represents a challenge. It was estimated that between 2014 and 2018, about 12 thousand people who drowned while on this migration route were never found. According to recent data, in 2020, about one thousand migrants died while crossing the Mediterranean Sea. In 2019, the number of deaths equaled 1.9 thousand, but 2016 was the year in which the number of fatalities peaked.


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