Italy rescued more than 2,600 migrants from the sea in just 24 hours yesterday, raising fears of another large influx this coming summer.
Two weeks ago, the European Union (EU) claimed its £4.7 billion deal with Turkey had cut the number of migrants crossing the Aegean Sea by 90 per cent. However, the number of migrants crossing to Italy from North Africa is now starting to rise sharply.
The Italian coastguard said had helped save 2,000 people floating in 14 rubber dinghies, bringing them ashore in Italy. Another 636 were picked up from two boats off the Maltese coast.
Meanwhile, Libyan authorities also detained a further 550 people trying to cross illegally into Europe. They said the nationalities of those detained included “several African countries”, and included children and women, eight of whom were pregnant.
EU officials are predicting that up to half a million people will cross the Mediterranean from Libya alone this year, intensifying the migrant crisis once again and possibly raising social tensions on the European continent.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also threatened to “open the floodgates” despite concluding a deal with the EU to take back migrants in exchange for billions of euros of aid.
Part of the deal involved granting Turkish citizens visa-free access to the EU’s open-border Schengen Zone, and Turkey is now determined that this is implemented as soon as possible. If not, it has threatened to pull out of the whole deal.
The Daily Mail says the overwhelming majority of those crossing from North Africa are not genuine refugees but economic migrants. Since the overthrow of Colonel Gaddafi’s regime in 2011, Libya has descended into chaos, allowing people traffickers to exploit the situation and help thousands of people cross the Mediterranean.
Breitbart London reported in March how 800,000 people are waiting on the Libyan coast for the right moment to cross the sea to Europe. Officials there have also threatened to “open the floodgates” if they do not get financial support from Europe.
Colonel Mohamed Bourgiba, head of the Gweea detention centre, which holds hundreds of migrants, said: “The state is very weak and there is no money. Most of us here aren’t even getting paid.” He warned that if things do not improve “we will just stop working and open the floodgates. Because at the moment we are doing all of this for nothing.”