Italy Witnesses 50% Surge in Migrant Arrivals in 2023

Italy Witnesses 50% Surge in Migrant Arrivals in 2023

Despite efforts by the Italian government to discourage immigration through various measures and decrees, the country witnessed a significant 50% increase in migrant landings last year compared to 2021, reaching over 150,000 individuals.

Crisis in Tunisia Fuels Irregular Migration

According to data disclosed on December 29 by the Interior Ministry, 155,754 migrants arrived in Italy in 2023, up from 103,846 in 2022.

August saw the highest number of monthly landings, with 25,673 people reaching Italian shores.

The government analysis suggested that prevailing economic and political instability in Tunisia has turned the country into the number one point of departure for people leaving Africa.

Despite attempts by the Tunisian coast guard to intercept individuals headed for Europe across the Mediterranean Sea, their efforts have seen limited success.

Wagner Group Exacerbates Migration Flows

The Italian authorities also believe that Russian Wagner mercenaries operating in West Africa have contributed to increased migration flows.

Funded by Moscow, Wagner has allegedly implemented a strategy to intensify the migration situation on the continent by deliberately destabilizing the region.

New EU Pact Brings Hope

However, government officials remained optimistic that the impact of migration will ease in 2024 following an EU agreement on a new pact on migration and asylum.

The deal entails a fairer distribution of asylum seekers within the bloc and other measures aimed at managing the migration challenge more comprehensively.

Over 28,000 Migrants Perish Reaching Italy Since 2013

Italy has faced a mounting influx of migrants over the last decade, with over one million arrivals since 2013.

This has been coupled with a worrying death toll exceeding 28,000 people.

The tragic trend began in 2013 when 368 migrants lost their lives during the difficult journey from Libya.

Humanitarian groups estimated that over 28,000 migrants have died in the Mediterranean Sea trying to reach Italy, including 1,143 minors.

So far this year alone, over 100 minors have tragically died or gone missing at sea, accounting for 4% of the total death toll.

Unaccompanied Minors at High Risk

Since 2014, approximately 112,000 unaccompanied minors have reached Italy by sea, with over 11,600 children undertaking the dangerous Mediterranean crossing and arriving unaccompanied between January 1 and October 2023.

The peak in migrant arrivals occurred in 2016 when 181,000 immigrants landed on Italian shores.

As the numbers continue to rise, concerns grow over the risks posed to vulnerable groups like unaccompanied minors.

ETIAS Approval Could Get Harder

The surge in irregular migration and deaths in the Mediterranean may lead to tighter ETIAS requirements for travelers once the system launches in May 2025.

ETIAS will require citizens of over 60 countries to obtain pre-travel authorization before entering the Schengen Area.

With migration and border security as top priorities, the ongoing crisis could result in more stringent ETIAS eligibility and screening requirements.

This could make securing approval more difficult for business travelers, students, families, and digital nomads from impacted regions.

Tighter EU Borders Expected

The 50% increase in Italy’s migrant arrivals will likely spur calls to strengthen external EU borders across the bloc.

Some member states may push for expanded use of border walls, fences, and surveillance technology to fortify land and sea frontiers.

There could also be efforts to establish more refugee camps and processing centers in North Africa and the Middle East to contain flows.

Support may grow for disembarkation platforms outside the EU where intercepted migrants can be quickly returned.

With migration exempted from Schengen’s borderless regime, internal border checks within the EU zone may also increase.

The ongoing crisis could fast-track mandatory EU entry-exit systems to heighten tracking of non-EU citizens.

Bleak Outlook Demands Concrete Action

While the new EU pact brings some hope for improvement in 2024, it remains concerning that Italy witnessed such a significant surge in migrant arrivals last year despite government efforts to curb flows.

With migration journeys across the Mediterranean Sea only growing more dangerous, the deaths of over 28,000 people, including minors and other vulnerable groups, underscores the need for expanded safe and legal pathways.

Concrete action is required to address the root causes forcing people to undertake risky irregular migration in the first place.