Drastic drop in migrant arrivals to Europe in early 2018

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) has reported a drastic drop in migrant arrivals to Europe with only half of last year’s arrivals, registered at 10,949 migrants, have entered Europe by sea in the first nine weeks of 2018.

Half of the migrants arrived through the Central Mediterranean route to Italy, while the rest arrived in Greece and Spain. This year’s number is about half of the 20,051 arrivals across the entire region during the same period last year.

According to Italian Interior Ministry figures, 5,457 migrants, about a third of last year’s 15,843, have arrived by sea to Italy this year. Through the first nine weeks of 2018, an average of 83 migrants arrived in Italy every day, a third of the 240 arrivals per day in 2017.

Speaking to Rai Uno television on 20 February, Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti said that Italy is now in control of migrant flows to its shores, ANSA news agency reported in February. “We have tried to govern the migration phenomenon which is now under control,” the minister said, noting that arrivals had dropped for the eighth consecutive month. “In February, we have registered a 90% decrease on last February.”

Compared to 2015 arrivals for the same period of at least 143,544 irregular migrants entering Europe by sea at an average of 2,142 daily, this year’s arrivals have fallen by more than 90%.

Although only a third of last year’s arrivals were recorded this year up to 8 March, the number of those reported dead or missing in the Mediterranean on their way to Italy only dropped by 15%, recorded at 442 compared to last year’s 521 deaths.

Arrivals to Europe from North Africa have been dropping dramatically since last July when armed groups reached agreements with the Tripoli based government to block migrants from embarking on journeys across the Mediterranean.

At sea, Libya’s coastguard, which has been receiving technical and logistical support from the European Union, has been aggressively pushing rescue organisations away from Libyan waters and returning migrants to Libyan detention centres, resulting in many NGOs halting their operations in the Mediterranean.

On top of the 442 migrants reported missing across the Mediterranean this year, the deaths of an additional 27 migrants in North Africa and 56 in the Horn of Africa have been reported on the migration routes.