Italian officials blame the good weather for a sudden increase in immigration crossings from Libya, with ships picking up 3,100 migrants over the past three days.
As reported by The Associated Press (AP), some 712 migrants were picked up March 17 on top of 2,400 the two previous days, all grouped in small, flimsy rubber dinghies in international waters near Libya. Three bodies were found during rescues by mostly Italian ships on March 15.
“In these days there has been a window of weather that has been good for transiting this section of sea,” Coast Guard Cmdr. Filippo Marini said.
Meanwhile, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) says 9,800 migrants have arrived in Italy this year through March 16, compared with 7,400 in the same period last year. Spokeswoman Barbara Molinario said that it was too early to speak of trends and this kind of concentration in short periods is not unprecedented — even if periods of calm seas in the winter are limited.
Most of the arrivals this year are migrants from sub-Saharan Africa, Molinario said, a flow that indicates that the closures along the route from Greece have not led to a shift of the people in that area toward Libya.
“They are the same that transited Libya last year, and not the Syrians, Afghan and Iraqis who go through Greece There is no sign of a change of route, although we don’t exclude that there can be one.”