Newly released figures from the Italian Interior Ministry have revealed that the number of illegal arrivals in Italy has risen by nearly 200% in the first three months of this year compared to the same period last year, calling into question Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s ability to deliver on promises to significantly curtail illegal migration.
In its report, published on Friday, March 10th, the Interior Ministry notes that 17,592 illegal arrivals were recorded between January 1st and March 10th, an increase from 5,976 in 2022 and 5,995 during the same time span in 2021. February saw a particularly extraordinary spike in illegal arrivals, with Italian authorities recording a total of 9,465.
Of those who have arrived illegally so far this year, the ministry’s report states the largest nationality has been migrants from the Ivory Coast, at 13%, followed by nationals from Guinea, at 13%, Bangladeshis, at 9%, and Tunisians and Pakistanis, both at 7%.
The interior ministry’s report comes as Italy’s security services have warned that some 685,000 irregular migrants in Libya alone are waiting for a window of opportunity to leave North Africa and make their way to the Italian coast. The figure, when all countries of departure for migrants are accounted for, could climb as high as 900,000 people trying to reach Italy this year, according to a report from Il Giornale.
Of that 900,000, the Milan-based newspaper says that between 5% and 10%—45,000-90,000 people—have the right to international protection. The rest, however, are illegal immigrants who, per international law, are subject to repatriation since they do not meet the requirements for asylum.
A new, massive wave of arrivals would inevitably put even more pressure on Italy’s reception infrastructure, which is already under immense stress as it currently hosts nearly 110,000 people.
If current rates persist, it is quite possible that the number of illegal arrivals in 2023 could not only exceed the 105,131 recorded last year but may also come near the record total of 181,436 illegal arrivals who made their way to Italy during the European migrant crisis of 2016.
As one can easily see from the interior ministry’s numbers, Meloni’s pre-election promises to the Italian people to drastically reduce migration have so far not been met. A month before winning a resounding victory in Italy’s general elections and becoming the country’s first female prime minister, Giorgia Meloni called for a naval blockade off the North African coast to halt flows of illegal migration into Italy—a proposal that she and her government, so far, have shown no signs of attempting to enact.
On March 9th, however, Meloni—in an effort to keep her campaign promise Italy—announced a new decree aimed at tackling illegal immigration that, once enacted, will impose lengthy prison terms between 10 and 30 years on people smugglers responsible for the bodily harm or death of migrants.