Migrants pray in a tent city in Rome, on Aug. 1. The migrants are mostly from Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan. In 2016, more migrants arrived in Italy than in Greece, which was the top destination a year earlier. Most of those reaching Italy are from sub-Saharan Africa rather than the Middle East.
At a busy office in central Rome, the man who oversees Italy’s national network of committees that process asylum requests sits behind a desk with tall piles of folders.
Angelo Trovato says each committee has three members — representing police, local authorities and the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR.
“Each applicant is interviewed by one committee member,” says Trovato. “But when it comes to deciding the destiny of an individual, the decision can’t be by a single person. It must be reached collectively.”
Rifling through his paperwork, he pulls out a sheet and points out that, in just two years, the number of committees has grown from 10 to 48.
In 2016, Italy overtook Greece as Europe’s primary place of entry for migrants, with nearly 180,000 arrivals, slightly more than Greece’s 175,000. An EU agreement with Turkey to prevent migrants from disembarking dramatically reduced the more than 1 million refugees who arrived in Greece in 2015.
In Italy, there are fewer arrivals from the Middle East and many more from sub-Saharan Africa. With Italy’s EU partners setting up stricter border controls, the majority of migrants cannot move to Northern Europe where there are more employment opportunities.