How many migrants are there in Italy?

Researcher on migrants in Italy"Germany has to show off again"

Over 2,000 refugees recently reached the small Italian island of Lampedusa on their way to Europe in just a few days. Compared to last year, the number of refugees has tripled to around 13,000 people, on the one hand because the weather is improving, the Mediterranean is calmer and also because the corona situation in Europe is slowly calming down. Those responsible on Lampedusa feel left alone and with the increasing number of migrants who dare to cross the river, so does the fear of more deaths.

"I can imagine that we will have an increase in the numbers in the next few months," said Christopher Hein from the Luiss University in Rome on Deutschlandfunk about the migrants coming to Italy. Much is said in Italy that the Turkish influence is becoming more and more noticeable in Libya. It is speculated that Turkey is turning the screw sometimes more, sometimes less to put the EU under pressure, said Hein.

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The Libyan coast guard was infiltrated by the tug organizations. This situation is intolerable on the part of the EU, said Hein on the situation in Libya. "There has to be a switch in terms of cooperation with the Libyan side." It cannot go on watching in silence as inhuman crimes are committed in these torture centers every day, "said Hein about the Libyan camps for migrants.

"Germany should play a more active role," said Hein about European migration policy. "Germany played an active role, already in the meetings in Malta in 2019, and that was right. Germany has to show off again."

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Read the full interview here

Jasper Barenberg: Mr. Hein, how difficult is the situation in Lampedusa at the moment?

Christopher Hein: Yesterday 1200 migrants and refugees were at the port, without any accommodation, spent a night outside, of course had helpers and volunteers with them the whole time. But they reported that there were also difficult water conditions. There was a strong south wind that prevented a quarantine ship from arriving. And of course there must be an examination and must be subject to quarantine those who arrived at the weekend from North Africa, both Libya and Tunisia.

There was a difficult situation because together the large number does not come together on an absolute scale, but as crowded in as few days as you already said, and at the same time, of course, the restrictions that exist on Covid-19 and the need to before people in accommodation facilities are instructed to go through the quarantine first, and that has to be done somewhere. That was the problem yesterday and that is partly still the case this morning.

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Barenberg: Is it clear to you that, depending on the weather, many more, many thousands more people will be on the way in the next few weeks?

Hein: That's always a question. Of course, they say that when the weather becomes calmer, towards summer or in summer, the numbers increase. That is partly true, but not always. There is also no automatism between the weather and the numbers.

Of course, that depends very much on the political constellations within Libya as well. Much is said here that the Turkish influence, which is becoming more and more noticeable, especially in western Libya, is also behind it and that Turkey may also be turning the screw a bit, sometimes more, sometimes less, also to put Italy and the European Union in general under pressure not only from the Turkish coast, but also from the North African coast. That is what is being speculated about here.

I can already imagine that because of the traffic jam that existed about Covid-19 and of course the consequences of the virus in many African countries, we will have an increase in the numbers in the next few months.

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"Inhuman crimes daily in these torture centers"

Barenberg: You mentioned that many of them are from Libya at the moment. Now we all know that the conditions for refugees in Libya often mock all humanity. For weeks now, Mario Draghi's government has been trying to get into talks with the authorities in Libya and get them to impose stricter controls. Is that okay from your point of view?

Hein: No, that's not okay. Unfortunately. Unfortunately, when Draghi made his first overseas visit in Tripoli, he even praised the Libyan Coast Guard for their work.

It has to be said that there are various Libyan coast guards. They are related to various militias and are in turn infiltrated by the smugglers' organizations. This is a situation that is absolutely intolerable on the part of the European Union and of Italy that should not be tolerable, because it is a coast guard that is equipped with financial resources from Europe and Italy and which is also directly involved in inhuman treatment of Migrants are involved. In this respect: There has to be a switch in relation to cooperation with the Libyan side.

Because it cannot go on that one watches in silence as really inhuman crimes are committed there every day in these torture centers and the coastguard is directly involved in intercepting 5000 people from around January until now, intercepting the boats and bringing them back to the camps .

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"There are no organized rescue services in the Mediterranean"

Barenberg: There is something else to do with it. The Italian government is evidently pursuing the goal that we already know from before, only with other means of slowing down the rescue operations of private refugee organizations as well. What do you make of it?

Hein: The fact that at this moment there is not a single rescue ship in the central Mediterranean, neither on the part of the non-governmental organizations, on the part of Frontex and the European institutions, nor on the part of Italy. There are no organized rescue services at all in this part of the sea.

And that too, because the ships or some ships of the NGOs have been confiscated, have been set in different ports in southern Italy and this hindrance in fact leads to the percentage between those who lose their lives on the crossing and those who lose their lives who manage to get a lot bigger in the last few months. How far this has now continued can be seen.

The European Commission has rightly made recommendations in what is evident that sea rescue is not a criminal act. Of course, it is not a criminal act, but a humanitarian act. But sometimes with the politicians this masking becomes blurred.

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Barenberg: Now we all know that Italy has been asking for support from its European partners for a long time, for many years. We also know that this support is only available to a very small extent. What remains if the EU member states cannot agree on a common position and common rules on the issues of migration and asylum?

Hein: There is no such choice. There is also an obligation under the terms of the Lisbon Treaty of the European Union to come to an agreement, an agreement based on solidarity. That was once again clearly stated by the European Court of Justice. This is not an optional; this is a duty and all member states must participate.

In what way, that can indeed be seen, and especially the very last news, also from yesterday evening, is that the answer from the member states to the proposal for redistribution is initially very weak and very negative. You can understand that by the fact that there are of course other situations as well. There are also the arrivals of migrants from West Africa to the Spanish islands. There is also an increase on the Balkan route. It's not just Lampedusa and Sicily now. That is right as well.

A joint response is therefore necessary and the countries that have no external borders, no external sea borders such as the Nordic and Eastern countries, but also those of Central Europe have to play along and have to cooperate. That is simply an obligation and it must actually be implemented through the European Commission.

Resettlement: Syrian refugees resettled from Turkey to the EU (UNHCR / Statista)

Barenberg: To conclude, Mr. Hein. Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is in Italy today, speaking with his Italian colleague. Should Heiko Maas serve and start today?

Hein: I think Germany should play a more active role here. It is very clear. Germany also played an active role, already in the meetings in Malta in September 2019, and that was right. Germany must now again show off against its colleagues from the governments of the other member states.

Statements by our interlocutors reflect their own views. Deutschlandfunk does not adopt statements made by its interlocutors in interviews and discussions as its own.