Italy is now Europe’s top spot for refugee arrivals

More migrants trying to make their way into Europe are arriving in Italy than Greece for the first time in a year, according to the latest UN figures.

A thousand migrants and refugees rescued at sea were set to land on Friday (May 13) at various ports across southern Italy, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

An Italian coast guard ship arrived in Sicily carrying some 340 people, mainly Egyptians, Somalis and Sudanese –not Syrians as initially reported.

While 9,149 migrants arrived to the shores of Italy in April, Greece received 3,462 people, figures of the UN’s refugee agency show.

The UNHCR says more migrants looking to reach Europe arrived in Italy in April than in Greece – 9,149 against 3,650 – for the first time since May 2015.

According to Frontex director, Fabrice Leggeri, Italy’s eclipsing of Greece was not down to an increase in arrivals but was instead down to a “drastic reduction” in the number of refugees arriving on the Greek islands.

“The total for all of April is well below the number of people we often saw reaching just the island of Lesbos on a daily basis during last year’s peak months,” Leggeri said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country has accepted more than one million asylum seekers since last summer, was instrumental in pushing the EU-Turkey deal.

Since the deal was put in place, arrivals in Germany have rapidly declined. About 16,000 migrants arrived in April, compared with 120,000 arrivals last December.

But despite the deal’s apparent success at stemming the flow of migrants, two-thirds of Germans oppose a fourth term for Merkel.

Last year in April, 13,556 migrants made their way to Greece, while 16,063 people made their way to Italy from Africa in the hope of seeking asylum in the EU.

But migrants arriving in Italy are not coming from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, the three major groups trying their luck through Greece.

Asylum seekers making their way through the Mediterranean are primarily from Nigeria, Gambia, Somalia and other Sub-Saharan African nations.