New wave of migrants puts US and other countries to the test
A group of migrants from southern African states who have spent months in the central Mediterranean pass through immigration in Rome. The Italian government has allowed the first group of Africans to cross illegally into Europe for almost two years. —File photo by Angelo Carro/Reuters
ROME. — The Italian government has allowed at least 150 migrants and refugees — from South Africa, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Tunisia, Sudan, and Yemen — to enter in recent days, on the same day it authorized the deportation of the first group of 400 Africans from Libya in two years.
The government announced on Thursday that the Libyan group would come to the country on April 8, with the exception of Africans from the United States and its territories. A total of 1,320 migrants and refugees — including 400 African, with a few from South America — are currently in the camp near the Italian-Italian border.
Migrants and refugees from Africa — of which 1,500 have been granted or requested asylum — are now the largest group of people crossing the Mediterranean, according to the Italian government. More than 6,700 migrants and refugees, with 1,851 from Europe, arrived on the sea since Europe plunged into political crisis after the euro zone debt crisis in 2009.
With an open border, Italy has struggled with its responsibility to protect migrants from Europe and, after the latest surge, it may feel even more so, as it grapples with the humanitarian catastrophe.
With no real exit plan in sight, Italy will have to decide on further steps in dealing with the influx. Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini has vowed to deport more than 1,000 African arrivals. A similar number was deported this week. Both of those deportations took place without much public notice, even within Italy itself, and have been criticized by rights groups. But the Italian government has pushed ahead with such deportations.
Italy has now admitted almost 1,000 immigrants from Africa — most of whom are Syrian and Eritrean.
In a similar development, authorities have now arrested at least seven Africans who had entered Italy illegally from Libya and then crossed back to the United Arab Emirates through the southern entrance to the country