Almost 20,000 fewer migrants arrived in Italy in 2015 compared to the previous year, according to figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM).The IOM estimates that 153,842 migrants reached Italy last year compared to 170,100 in 2014.
The drop is mainly due to Syrians fleeing conflict entering Europe via Greece instead of Italy, Flavio Di Giacomo, the spokeperson in Italy for the IOM, said in a statement.
“Although it may seem that Italy in 2015 registered a decrease in arrivals, we must consider that in 2014 Syria was the most represented country of origin of migrants reaching Italian shores, while in 2015 this flow decreased since Syrians predominantly reached Europe through the Greek route,” Di Giacomo said.
But while fewer Syrians came to Italy, the number of Nigerians, Somalis and Sudanese who arrived by sea in 2015 more than doubled compared to 2014.
The most represented country of origin was Eritrea, with 39,162 Eritreans reaching Italy last year, Di Giacomo said, citing figures from Italy's Interior Ministry.
Meanwhile, 607 people have so far been rescued off Sicily since the start of the year. Last week, 245 migrants – mostly from Sub-Saharan African – were brought to Catania by the coastguard ship, Dattilo. Among them were 22 women and 58 unaccompanied children.
"From the first testimonies, about eight or 10 migrants went missing. Some migrants told us that during the sea crossing these people fell into the water and drowned," Di Giacomo said.