Migration routes via Italy to Europe - Statistics and Facts

Italy is one of the main entry points in Europe for immigrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea. Together with Spain, Greece, Bulgaria, and Cyprus, Italy is among the first member states reached by immigrants. For instance, the Italian island of Lampedusa is a major European entry port for immigrants’ arrival from North Africa. This Sicilian island is geographically closer to the North African continent than to Italy. However, in the last two years, Italy played a controversial role in rescuing migrants at sea. As a consequence of anti-migration policies, the previous government declared that Italian ports were closed to ships carrying rescued migrants. This led to long standoffs of NGOs’ ships before receiving permission to disembark at a safe harbor. Similarly, in the last months of 2019, the average duration of rescue ships’ standoffs was 5.9 days.

Between 2015 and 2016, the European Union implemented a emergency relocation program, which foresees the transfer of individuals in need of international protection among the member states, Switzerland, and Norway. A large number of migrants who arrived in Italy in 2018 were relocated to Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. Nevertheless, crossing borders irregularly within Europe has experienced an increase in the last years. Migrants are forced to choose life-threatening routes and methods to reach the European borders. Such methods include train surfing, river crossing, or hiking through mountains without appropriate equipment. Between 2016 and 2018, several deaths of immigrants were recorded at the Italian-French border in the attempt to migrate within Europe.

The route undertaken by immigrants that leads to Italy is the Central Mediterranean route. More specifically, this route includes the crossing from North Africa to Italy as well as to Malta. The main departing country is Libya, while Tunisia, Egypt, and East Algeria represent minor departing shores. In 2019, 1.3 thousand migrants died while crossing the Central Mediterranean route. Among the different routes in the Mediterranean Sea, the Central route registered the highest number of fatalities overall. Furthermore, the Eastern Mediterranean route covers migration flows from Turkey to Greece and Cyprus. More information is available about the Eastern route compared to the Western and Central routes. In the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, bodies are more often brought to land than in the Western and Central Sea. The route from Morocco and the Western coast of Algeria leading to Spain is known as the Western Mediterranean route.

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Migration routes via Italy to Europe

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