Migrant Arrivals Drop 51 Pct; Italian PM Says Migration Threat to EU Border-Free Travel Zone

* Migration threat to EU’s 26-country border-free travel zone, says Italian prime minister.

* Arrival figures for refugees and migrants currently 51% down on last year and 81% down on 2016.

JUN 26, 2018: The United Nations Migration Agency IOM reports that 40,944 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea through the first six months of 2018. That total compares to 84,675 at this time last year, and over 215,997 at this time in 2016.

In other words, Mediterranean arrivals at this point in 2018 are running at significantly below half of last year’s total to date. Deaths, too, are much lower than at comparable periods of the past two years.

In 2017 IOM’s Missing Migrants Project reported 2,133 deaths through June; at this point in 2016 the figure was 2,911 – or over three times 2018’s estimated total of 960.

The largest shortfall since last year has been on transit via the so-called Central Mediterranean route linking North Africa to Italy — Libya remains hub of migrants seeking to travel north via the Mediterranean.

This year migrant arrivals to Italy by sea are below 17,000 – a big turnaround for a country that has witnessed an annual average arrival rate of 156,000 migrants per year over the last four years (see chart below).

Last week, the Aquarius, a rescue boat of 630 migrants docked in Spain –which has seem a recent spike in arrivals — after being turned away by Italy.

On Sunday, the Italian prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, said the future of the EU’s border-free travel zone is at stake as it sought to ease the pressure on Mediterranean countries arising from hosting refugees and migrants.

Conte was speaking at a mini-EU emergency summit in Brussels, where he said a plan from his government presented at the summit represented a paradigm shift in dealing with migration.

The unorthodox meeting boycotted by several EU countries was the latest among other attempts to save the EU’s 26-country border-free travel zone, seen as one of the EU’s crowning achievements.

Spain, Italy and Greece have been continuing to attract migrants from south of the Mediterranean sea due to their favorable migrant integration policy spanning over the years.

That may however change if EU countries agree to tweak their policies toward economic migrants and refugees. A 2007 official attitude study (below) reflects the scenario. Not much has changed though since then, if not worse.

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