Migrants: Syria effect on the route through Libya

Iai report, Mare Nostrum rescues don't explain record numbers

07 March, 17:27

    (by Rodolfo Calò) (ANSAmed) CAIRO, MARCH 7 - The migrant flux through Libya is undergoing some changes recently, most in terms of numbers and routes, especially due to the civil war in Syria. However the massive arrival of migrants in Italy can't be explained by the rescues carried out by the Italian Navy-led operation Mare Nostrum. So says a recent report by the Institute of International Affairs(Iai). The dossier recalls that from the beginning of 2000 the number of migrants who undertook to cross the Mediterranean on the route from Libya the annual average was generally under 40,000 but that in 2014 this skyrocketed up to 120,000 people landing in Sicily most of whom left from Libya.

    The institute founded by Altiero Spinelli argues that this "unexpected increase has wrongly been attributed" to Mare Nostrum which saved the lives of thousands of people while not managing to prevent the deaths of 3,419 others tha made 2014 a record for drowning and loss of life in the Mediterranean.

    In actual fact the landings increased after the mission was dismantled in order to start the much more limited operation entitled "Triton" coordinated by the European borders agency Frontex.

    Two "push factors" need to be considered. One is the situation in Libya, which deteriorated rapidly spreading insecurity. While the majority of the 2.5 million immigrants living in Libya in 2009 had left "there still was a big group of people who are not Libyans" and who "desparately wanted to leave".

    The second "push factor" was the geographiocal origins of the migrant flow concerning Libya, western Africa, the Horn of Africa and Syria.

    "It is very probable that this third group of migrants, those fleeing from Syria and to a lesser extent Palestinians, could have contributed to the high numbers" recorded in 2014 says the report. Of the 170,000 people who arrived on the italian coast that year more than 42,000 were Syrians and 6,000 were Palestinians, representing 28% of migrants. Only 206 were identified as "Libyans".(ANSAmed).

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