Migrants waiting to disembark an MSF rescue boat in the Sicilian harbour of Pozzallo. The MSF rescue team discovered their overcrowded inflatable boat approximately 30 miles north of the coast of Libya by chance. The boat was carrying 140 people, including 18 children. An MSF spokesperson said when the boat was discovered it had already been in the water for two days and did not have enough gasoline to complete the journey from Tripoli to Italy in 2020/Photo: MSF

34,000 migrants arrived Italy by sea in 2020 – UNHCR

The number of migrants who arrived in Italy by sea increased significantly last year, inspite of the coronavirus emergency, according to the UN refugee agency. Nearly 40% of newly arrived migrants were Tunisians.

34,154 migrants arrived in Italy by sea in 2020, according to UNHCR Italy. That’s three times as many as in the previous year — in 2019, a total of 11,471 arrivals were registered.

A majority of sea arrivals in 2020 took place on Lampedusa. UNHCR said that 60% of the newly arrived migrants landed there. Lampedusa has long been a migrant hotspot because of its location — the small Italian island sits halfway between southwestern Italy and Tunisia in the Mediterranean Sea.

From Tunisia, Bangladesh, Ivory Coast

Tunisians were the largest national group of migrants who arrived in Italy in 2020, they made up 38% of all migrants. According to UNHCR, “departures from Tunisia were up four-fold” in 2020.

Bangladeshis were the second largest group — they made up 12% of newly arrived migrants, followed by Ivorians (6%). According to UNHCR, most Bangladeshis arrived in Italy via Libya.

Relatively few rescues

According to UNHCR, most migrant boats made it to Italy’s shores on their own.

Only approximately 4,500 of migrants who arrived by sea in 2020 had been rescued by Italian authorities or private rescue organizations on the high seas, UNHCR said. Almost 30,000 migrants were either arrived undetected or were intercepted by the authorities close to shore.

The UN agency pointed out that “there was a limited presence of [non-governmental organizations] conducting Search and Rescue operations in the Central Mediterranean throughout 2020,” which might be one of the reasons for the relatively low number of rescues.


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