01 July 2017

Europe migrant crisis: UN calls for more support for Italy

Some of the 650 migrants who were rescued by the Swedish ship Frontex in Mediterranean Sea off the Libyan coast, wait to disembark in Catania, Italy, 01 July 2017Image copyright

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About 650 migrants were rescued and brought to the Italian port of Catania on Saturday

Italy needs more support as it deals with large numbers of migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Africa, the UN’s refugee agency has said.

“What is happening in front of our eyes in Italy is an unfolding tragedy,” Filippo Grandi said.

“This cannot be an Italian problem alone,” he added.

Italy has threatened to stop vessels of other countries from bringing migrants to its ports, as it warned the EU the situation was unsustainable.

On Thursday, the European Union’s migration commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, promised more financial support for Italy, and urged member states to demonstrate greater solidarity.

The interior ministers of France, Germany and Italy are due to discuss the issue at a meeting in Paris on Sunday.

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Nine migrants were found dead during the rescue operation off the Libyan coast

Mr Grandi, who is the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said 12,600 migrants and refugees had arrived in Italy last weekend alone.

In total, he said, 83,650 people have reached Italy by sea since the beginning of the year – a 20% increase on the same period in 2016.

An estimated 2,030 have lost their lives in the Mediterranean this year.

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Media captionThis video from May shows the coastguard rescuing a migrant clinging to a ship’s rudder

The vast majority of migrants making their way to Italy across the Mediterranean set off from Libya.

Libya is a gateway to Europe for migrants from across sub-Saharan Africa and also from the Arabian peninsula, Egypt, Syria and Bangladesh. Many are fleeing war, poverty or persecution.

The UNHCR said that among the arrivals in Italy there was an alarmingly high rate of unaccompanied children or victims of sexual or gender-based violence.

A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.

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