The spotlight of the European refugee/migrant crisis may be shifting back to Italy. Open Europe reports:
Data from the United Nations High Commission on Refugees has shown that for the first time in over a year, more refugees are entering Europe from Italy than from Greece. The number of refugees arriving in Italy increased slightly to 9,100 in April, up from 5,200 in January, whilst the number of refugees arriving in Greece has continued to fall dramatically from 67,400 in January to 3,500 in April.
In 2014—before migrants started choosing the easier route via Greece—Italy was the ground zero of Europe’s migrant crisis. Already, hundreds of migrants per week—most of them sub-Saharan Africans who first arrived at ports in Italy’s south—are again seeking to venture north through this majestic valley.
So far, overall arrivals to Italy—about 28,600 since Jan. 1—are roughly on par with 2015, and are not yet near the huge numbers seen in Greece at the peak of the crisis last year.
But on the other hand, the most desperate of the refugees from Syria are already starting to risk the longer journey to Italy, and the immense demographic pressure from Africa continues to press upward through the broken state of Libya. Long term, in fact, you could argue that the refugee problem facing Italy—which never really went away, it was just overshadowed by the more visible surge from Syria—is the bigger problem facing Europe. At any given moment, if the EU-Turkey pact fails or Aleppo falls, it could be overshadowed again, but even more people are straining to get out of Africa than the Middle East, and Libya may be even more broken than Syria.
You’d think Europe would be once bitten, twice shy when it comes to refugee matters, and in consequence have made great pains to up its game for the next round in Italy—better patrols, better enforcement, more preparation in depth. Nope. As the Post story makes clear, so far there’s just more of the same: paralysis, no central planning, and a replay of the border-closure fights that rippled through the Balkans at the crossing between Austria and Italy. It’s French, not Italian, but so far, as a commentary on the next round of this crisis, plus ça change fits all too well.