Italy’s Interior Minister Marco Minniti told reporters on August 15 that the flow of migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Libya has slowed down in recent months. Almost 600,000 migrants have arrived in Italy over the past four years.
“We are still under the tunnel, it’s a long tunnel, but I start seeing the light at the end of it,” said the minister.
As reported by the Reuters news agency, data from the interior ministry showed that 97,293 people had reached Italy so far in 2017, down 4.15% from the same period in 2016.
Minniti said that these trends would continue in August, but did not comment further.
In Libya, Italy has trained members of the coastguard and upgraded its fleet, in line with the EU’s investments to support search and rescue operations at sea as well as those along its borders.
“It was important to intervene on the other side of the Mediterranean and we have focused on Libya. It seemed difficult, but it now appears that something is moving,” said Minniti.
Meanwhile, the Italian government has also introduced a code of conduct for the operations NGOs, demanding that armed police travel on their boats to help root out people smugglers.
Five out of the of eight groups operating in the southern Mediterranean agreed to the terms so far. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has refused.
United Nations Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard issued the following statement: “This code of conduct and the overall action plan suggest that Italy, the EU Commission and the EU Member states deem the risks and the reality of deaths at sea a price worth paying in order to deter migrants and refugees”.