Most of them went to Libya or Tunisia – the refugees who reach Italy by sea often risk their lives. And yet their numbers are not decreasing, quite the contrary.

Rome (AP) – The number of migrants reaching Italy by sea has more than doubled within a year. The Italian Ministry of the Interior announced on Sunday that a total of 49,280 people landed on the Italian coasts between August 1, 2020 and July 31, 2021.

This corresponds to an increase of 128 percent year-on-year (21,616 people). 147 people smugglers were arrested, an increase of more than 25 percent.

Only a small part of the people – 4,239 – were rescued from the Mediterranean by the rescue ships of the non-governmental organizations (NGO) and taken to Italy. The vast majority of the newcomers – 40,727 – are “Sbarchi Autonomi”, autonomous landings, in the parlance of the Italian authorities. These are people who reach Italy independently.

According to statistics, the majority of the migrants had left for Libya (22,343) or Tunisia (17,677). According to information provided by migrants on arrival, Tunisians were the most represented (14,153 in total), followed by Bangladeshis (6027) and citizens of Côte d’Ivoire (3312).

The total number of boat migrants is low compared to the 2014-2017 figures. In the period from August 1, 2016 to July 31, 2017, it was 182,877. The then Social Democratic government under Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni began sharpening migration policy in 2017. This included a controversial agreement with Libya aimed at getting Libyans not to let migrants out to sea.

The populist government, which took over as Minister of the Interior with Matteo Salvini of the right-wing Lega after the 2018 elections, has sharpened its course. Salvini fought the international aid organizations and closed the ports to save ships. After Salvini’s departure and the government change in 2019, there was only limited easing.