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Italy Feeling the Brunt of Migration Problem

Italy Feeling the Brunt of Migration Problem

Last year, it finally appeared like the migrant crisis in Europe was slowing down. But, a recent report says that migrant numbers entering Italy have started to surge again. 

According to n-tv, a German television news channel, 3,580 migrants from Libya entered Italy in the first few weeks of January, which is about 15% higher than the same period last year. 

The situation in Libya has recently become more dire. 

“The possibility of elections in Libya this autumn is increasing tensions between Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, the military leader of the Libyan National Army (LNA) in the east, and the UN-recognised government of Fayez al-Sarraj based in Tripoli,” writes The Guardian. “In a sign of the lawlessness, forces loyal to Haftar were accused on Thursday of bloody reprisals against those they suspected of planting a bomb in the eastern coastal city of Benghazi earlier this week that killed more than 40 people and injured more than 90.”

To escape this dangerous landscape, people from Libya are seeking refuge in Italy. 

Again, Italy is struggling to cope with the influx.

Italy is addressing the migration issue in a few ways. On January, Italian officials increased the number of troops being sent to North Africa to focus on counterterrorism efforts. 

“It is clear that Italy’s foreign policy priorities have shifted and managing migration flows from Africa through the Maghreb is now the most pressing issue,” said Riccardo Fabbiano, a senior Middle East and North Africa analyst at Eurasia Group, told Al-Monitor. “While remaining loyal to its NATO commitments, Italy is trying to prioritize the issue of migration, which is already a central theme in the current electoral campaign.”

Troops are being pulled from other areas of the world to address the conflict in North Africa. Italian officials are hopeful that by helping to tackle terrorism in both Libya and Tunisia, this will also decrease the number of migrants entering Italy. 

“Is there any clear distinction to be made between counterterrorism and migration? I don’t think there truly is one,” said Jalel Harchaoui, a frequent commentator on Libyan affairs, to Al-Monitor. “Both phenomena tend to come hand in hand with anarchy. Right now, minds are particularly focused on migration. But in 2015 and 2016, the focus was on Daesh [the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State] and jihadist groups in general. One thing is certain: If the overall security situation worsens in Libya, both banes will experience an uptick. That is the fear.”

Terrorist attacks have also increased in Italy. Over the weekend, a far-right extremist shot six Africans in Macerata.

Silvio Berlusconi, Italy’s former Prime Minister, has another approach to the migrant crisis. He has pledged to deport 600,000 illegal immigrants if his center-right coalition wins in the upcoming elections in March

“Immigration has become an urgent question, because after years with a leftwing government, there are 600,000 migrants who don’t have the right to stay,” said Berlusconi. “We consider it to be an absolute priority to regain control over the situation.

His coalition partner, Matteo Salvini have promised to also focus on safety. 

“When we’re in government we will invest many resources in security,” said Berlusconi.  “We will boost police presence and reintroduce the ‘Safe Streets’ initiative … Our soldiers will patrol the streets alongside police officers.”

Author’s note: Europe is still coping with the migrant crisis. As the flow of immigrants into Europe increases, so does the instability. Some countries are taking a stricter stance. Italy needs to take back control of it’s borders.

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