After the closure of the Balkan Route some people claimed that the majority of the Syrian refugees will try to enter the EU through the Central Mediterranean route, which is the route between Libya and Italy.
Based on that assumption, the Austrian government also decided to build a fence at border with Italy to reduce the upcoming influx.
However, on Friday, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) reported that currently there are no evidence suggesting this route change. On the contrary, compared with the first five months of 2015, the migrant flows in Italy have remained more or less stable and the top nationalities arriving in the EU country remain the same – mostly Sub-Saharan Africans.
“Despite a sharp drop in departures of Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans from Turkey to Greece, IOM has yet to see any evidence that these nationalities are responding to the closure of the Balkan route by returning to the Central Mediterranean route and trying to reach Italy via Egypt or Libya,” the IOM reported.
Last week, Frontex also reported that Italy has now become the EU’s top spot for refugee arrivals mainly because the significant drop in arrivals on the Greek Aegean islands in April. According to Frontex, the number of migrants arriving on the Greek islands in April plunged by 90 percent compared to the previous month, reaching fewer than 2,700. As a result, the number of migrants reaching Italy exceeded the totals for Greece for the first time since June 2015.
Overall, according to IOM, an estimated 190,973 migrants and refugees have entered Europe by sea in 2016 through 18 May, arriving in Italy, Greece, Cyprus and Spain. At the same period, 1,359 people lost their lives in the Mediterranean in their effort to start a new life in the EU.
In an effort to deal with the situation, the Italian government is pushing for NATO naval patrols off Libya and a deal with Libya on a model similar with the one concluded between the EU and Turkey. Moreover, the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi wants from the EU to make a new “strategy for Africa” to stem the influx from there.
Last Thursday, it was also reported by New Europe, that Italy’s proposal for the creation of floating hotspots has the support of the Dutch Presidency.