Nearly 700,000 migrants are in Libya awaiting a chance to travel by sea to Italy, said a lawmaker from Premier Giorgia Meloni’s far-right party on Sunday, according to intelligence reports.
According to Tommaso Foti, lower parliamentary house whip for the Brothers of Italy Party, the Italian secret services estimate that there are 685,000 migrants, many of whom are in Libyan detention camps, eager to sail across the central Mediterranean Sea in smugglers’ boats.
Some 105,000 migrants reached Italy by sea in 2022.
From the start of this year through March 10, some 17,600 arrived, including a few thousand who disembarked at Italian ports in the last several days, The Associated Press reported. That’s about triple the number for the same time period in each of the two previous years, although the COVID-19 pandemic might have led to fewer voyages.
Italy’s coast guard said it rescued more than 1,000 migrants off the country’s southern mainland in recent days. Hundreds more reached the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, south of Sicily, after setting off from Tunisia, according to authorities.
With the island struggling to care for so many people arriving within a short time, authorities have transferred hundreds of them by boat and aircraft to other temporary shelters for asylum-seekers.
On Sunday, three more bodies were found from a Feb. 26 shipwreck just offshore the Italian peninsula, raising the known death toll in that disaster to 79 migrants, Italian state TV said. A wooden boat that had sailed from Türkiye ran into sandbank in rough seas off a beach in Calabria, the toe of the Italian peninsula.
There were 80 survivors, and an undetermined number of people were believed to be missing and presumed dead.
Meloni’s government has rebuffed criticism that the coast guard should have been sent out to rescue the boat’s passengers when the vessel first was spotted farther off the coast.