This week the number of immigrants entering Italy since January 1 shattered the previous yearly record from 2014, moving beyond the 170,000 mark.
The most recent data show that 172,444 migrants have landed on Italian shores so far during 2016, a 20 percent increase over the same period in 2015. Arrivals as of this week broke the prior yearly record of 170,100 migrants and refugees who landed in Italy in 2014.
In recent weeks the pace of new arrivals has picked up, with 13,470 migrants arriving in Italy during November, as compared with only 3,218 that arrived during the same month of 2015.
The majority of the migrants are males (71 percent) and almost all originate from the African continent. During 2017, Nigerians made up 21 percent of immigrants in Italy, with Eritrea sending 12 percent, Gambia, Sudan and Côte d’Ivoire with 7 percent each, Guinea at 6 percent and Somalia, Senegal and Mali accounting for 5 percent each.
According to Professor Anna Bono of the University of Turin, an expert in African migration, most of the migrants coming to Italy are not refugees escaping from war or even poor people fleeing hunger, but young, middle-class males.
Bono said that human traffickers in African countries are promote emigration to Italy through extensive ad campaigns promising a warm welcome and extensive welfare assistance.
“In the countries of sub-Saharan Africa there are advertisements inciting people to go to Italy, explaining that everything here is free,” she said.
A number of NGOs have been accused of aggravating the immigration crisis by effectively providing an illegal shuttle service from Libyan waters to Italy, rather than taking migrants to the nearby port of Zarzis in Tunisia.
Analysis from the news outlet GEFIRA suggests that NGO-operated vessels smuggle African illegal immigrants to Italy where they often file fraudulent asylum claims to stay in the country illegally.
A recent study also revealed that there is a direct correlation between the number of immigrants entering Italy and the rise in the crime rate.
The study conducted by the Confcommercio group on the statistical connection between crime and immigration found that in a determined area, if the number of immigrants increases by 1 percent, the crime rate in the same area goes up by 0.4 percent.
The crime rate among legal immigrants is nearly double that of Italian citizens, at 8.5 criminals per 1000 as opposed to just 4.3 per 1000 among Italians. More alarming still, more than half of Italy’s illegal immigrants have been found guilty of crimes (148 criminals out of every 247 persons).
For the first time, the crime rate in the north of Italy, which has the highest concentration of immigrants and asylum seekers, is surpassing that of the south, the study found.
Including loss of revenue, costs for personal injury, insurance and expenses for defense systems, crime has cost Italian businesses 26.5 billion euros in 2016, according to the study. In particular, illegal itinerant vendors account for 8.1 billion, dining in restaurants without paying 5.6 billion, counterfeiting 3.5 billion and shoplifting 3.6 billion, the study revealed.
The five Italian regions accommodating the most immigrants are the northern region of Lombardy, followed by Lazio (whose capital is Rome), Sicily, Veneto, and Campania. Only 1156 immigrants have been relocated to other European countries, with the vast majority staying in Italy.