News / Europe

Number of Migrants Arriving in Italy Swells

FILE - Refugees climbing aboard an Italian naval vessel near the Italian port of Pozzallo, south of Sicily.
FILE - Refugees climbing aboard an Italian naval vessel near the Italian port of Pozzallo, south of Sicily.
Pamela Dockins
The International Organization for Migration says there has been a 10-fold increase compared to a year ago in the number of migrants intercepted off the coast of Italy.  Most of the migrants are trying to escape unrest in Africa and the Middle East.

The International Organization for Migration says as of early April, almost 15,000 migrants had arrived near the Italian coast this year.

That compares to about 1,500 for the same period last year, according to the group's Italy spokesman, Flavio Di Giacomo.

"These are people who are fleeing from wars and regimes.  The main nationalities are Syrians, Eritreans, Somalis, people coming from Mali and sub-Saharan countries," said Di Giacomo.

One of those would-be migrants is Jeckson Evax, who is from Nigeria.

"I left Nigeria because of the issue of Boko Haram," said Evax.

Boko Haram is an Islamist militant group blamed for thousands of deaths since 2009.

Evax was among 46 African migrants who set out from Libya in a rubber raft, with hopes of reaching Europe.

"[I] want to go to Europe to continue my education, for freedom and for everything," he said.

The migrants were intercepted by Libyan naval forces.

Di Giacomo says last year an estimated 700 would-be migrants died as they attempted to cross the Mediterranean.

"It is time to prevent these tragedies from happening and the international community should develop a more comprehensive approach to protect migrants," he said.

Di Giacomo says the international community has focused too much on border control and not enough on the humanitarian issues that prompt people to flee from their homelands.

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