Migrant arrivals in Italy top 30,000 for 2016: navy

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Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP
17:55 CEST+02:00
Italy's coastguard has coordinated the rescue of another 1,800 migrants, lifting the total plucked from stricken boats since the start of 2016 to more than 30,000, the navy announced on Friday.

The migrants were rescued from waters off Libya on Thursday in ten operations involving boats operated by the Italian navy, coastguard and customs police, the EU's border agency Frontex and the Doctors without Borders NGO.

The latest arrivals take the total number of refugees or other migrants landed at Italian ports since January 1st to above 30,000, slightly above the total at this time last year.

Any spike in migrant arrivals in Italy tends to trigger fears that a much bigger increase is on the cards this summer following the EU-Turkey deal which has slowed the numbers of asylum seekers arriving on the Greek islands to a trickle.

But Italian government officials and aid agencies say there is no evidence of that happening to date and point to the logistical difficulties involved in would-be migrants currently in Turkey getting to Libya.

The vast majority of migrants using Libya as a launchpad for a journey to Italy have, so far this year, been overwhelmingly from sub-Saharan Africa.

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Some Italian politicians have repeatedly voiced concern over the possibility of the estimated one million immigrants currently in Libya trying to get to Europe by boat.

But Libya experts say many of these migrants have been working in Libya for years and are unlikely to embark on a risky crossing of the Mediterranean unless the security or economic situation in the country deteriorates drastically.

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