Seaborne Migrant Arrivals to Italy Set Records — 60,200 in May

Source: Italian Ministry of Interior

Seaborne migrant arrivals to Italy have reached 60,200 in 2017 as of May 31, according to the Italian Ministry of Interior. Arrivals in 2017 have been consistently higher than in the previous year and are on track to set an annual record, topping the 181,436 that arrived in 2016. 

Arrivals rose by 26% year-on-year in May 2017 to 23,010. Except for January, each month in 2017 has seen more arrivals than the corresponding month in 2016. Higher numbers are expected in the summer months as migrants take advantage of the the better weather.

The largest number of migrants come from Nigeria (8,048), Bangladesh (6,352), Guinea (5,423), Ivory Coast (5,142), Gambia (3,654), Senegal (3,555), Morocco (3,241), Mali (2,710), Sudan (1,840), and Pakistan (1,786).

Picked up in the Mediterranean and brought to ports along Italy’s southern coasts, usually in Sicily, most migrants are then distributed among reception facilities across the country.

Lombardy, one of Italy’s northernmost and economically prosperous regions, hosts the country’s highest percentage of migrants — 13% of the total.


by SW


First Migrants Arrive in Palermo Since G7

May 29, 2017

PALERMO — Offshore supply ship Vos Thalassa brought 1,042 migrants and seven cadavers to the port of Palermo, Italy around 13:30 yesterday, May 28. The migrants were the first to arrive in Sicily since the island’s ports were closed in occasion of the G7 summit in Taormina. 

According to local newspaper La Sicilia, the ship was conducting security operations for an oil rig 40 miles off the Libyan coast when it ran into the first migrant boat. Soon after, Vos Thalassa was asked to stay in the area by the coast guard to assist other nearby migrants.

By the time I reached the port around 10:00 on Monday, May 29, there were still around 350 migrants waiting to be brought to an immigration center nearby. They were still at the port because the immigration center, where they would be properly identified and then directed to a reception facility, was at capacity.

The migrants waited around two large tents; some were sitting outside in the sun while others lay down inside on pieces of cardboard. The tents smelled strongly of urine.

All of the migrants I could see were men, most of them in their twenties or thirties and the vast majority seemed to be from sub-Saharan Africans. There was a fair number of what appeared to be Bangladeshis, and a few North African fellows. Most were silent, while a few talked in small groups. They looked exhausted but healthy, thin and muscular and upright. A medical volunteer told me that there had been fewer illnesses than expected.

Watching them were about twenty Italian police officers, a few medical and emergency personnel, and staff from the IOM, Save the Children and the UNHCR. Two buses sat idling in front of the crowd.

When I arrived there was a discussion between the policeman in charge and some of the NGO staff about which migrants were minors. From what I could understand, 62 of the migrants had claimed to be minors but only 49 were actually. Many migrants lie about their age, they said, with minors claiming that they are adults and vice versa.

Nine people were identified as minors, taken out of the crowd and loaded onto a bus, waving to their friends as they left. The discussion between the policeman and the NGO staff continued as they puzzled over 11 minors present on the list but missing among the crowd. I wonder how accurately minors can be identified without proper documents.

By law, minors who reach Italy cannot be deported and immediately become the charge of the municipality in which they arrive.

Around 1,500 migrants also arrived in Naples on the same day as these, Sunday, May 28, aboard the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) ship Vos Prudence, according to the AP.

by SW

Prince Charles Tours Earthquake-Damaged Town in Central Italy

April 3, 2017



Prince Charles shakes hands with Sergio Pirozzi, mayor of Amatrice

Prince Charles visited the central Italian town of Amatrice today to inspect reconstruction efforts and the damage caused by a major earthquake last year. The Prince of Wales met with the town mayor Sergio Pirozzi and toured a part of the red zone – the town center now largely reduced to rubble.

“It’s an important visit for us,” Sergio Pirozzi, Mayor of Amatrice, said. “We found out he was coming two weeks ago. So far everything has gone smoothly.”

Charles placed flowers at a memorial commemorating the nearly 300 people killed during the August 2016 earthquake and toured the emergency homes built for those whose houses were destroyed.

Of the 457 homes ordered for Amatrice, only 25 have been completed. These were consigned to residents on March 15, 2017, eight months after the first earthquake. 62 more are expected to be completed in the coming weeks, Civil Protection Officer Francesca Maffini said.

Italian soldiers build emergency homes for Amatrice residents

Charles also visited Amatrice’s new school and Save the Children daycare center, as well as the construction site of what is to be the town’s new commercial zone.

“It’s a very important emotional contribution,” school president Maria Rita Pitoni said, “The children prepared drawings of the Prince and the Duchess Camilla.”

A drawing for Prince Charles from one of Amatrice’s students

“He asked us if we had a good English teacher,” Pitoni said, “and then joked that he needed a good Italian teacher himself.”

The new school was one of the first emergency structures built, inaugurated on September 13, 2016 only a few weeks after the first earthquake struck in August.

Charles’ last stop on the tour was the construction site of the planned commercial zone, where a food tasting was prepared for him by local producers.

Prince Charles jokes with reporters while visiting Amatrice’s school

After the Amatrice disaster, Queen Elizabeth made a personal donation to help re-house the homeless and restore damaged churches, according to AFP.

Amatrice is one of many towns in central Italy left in ruins after a magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck on August 24 and another 6.6 magnitude earthquake struck on October 30, 2016.

On Saturday April 1, protesters gathered in the region and in front of parliament in Rome to demand that the government speed up the construction of new quake-proof houses and help local farmers and businesses get back on their feet, AFP reported.

OMC 2017: Zohr Exports Depend on Regional Cooperation


March 31, 2017
by SW

Egyptian Minister of Petroleum Tarek El Molla (left) and Cypriot Minister of Energy Yiorgos Lakkotrypis (right) at the OMC 2017 in Ravenna, Italy [Photo: Lorenzo Holt]
Future exports of natural gas from the Egyptian-owned Zohr field in the eastern Mediterranean will depend on regional cooperation and a stronger market, Egypt’s Minister of Petroleum said at the Offshore Mediterranean Conference (OMC) in Ravenna, Italy on March 29, 2017.

Most of the field’s capacity will be consumed domestically with the aim of achieving energy self-sufficiency in the country by 2018, Egyptian Minister of Petroleum Tarek El Molla said at an OMC panel discussion, but the possibility of exports will depend on an improved natural gas market and the cooperation between regional countries.

“It’s going to be a peacemaker,” El Molla said, speaking of the Zohr field, “[Oil production companies] need countries in agreement, complementing each other and not competing with different projects.”

The Zohr field, discovered in 2015 off the northern coast of Egypt by Italian energy company Eni, is the largest natural gas deposit yet discovered in the Mediterranean. Containing approximately the equivalent of 5.5 billion barrels of oil, it is the most recent discovery in a cluster of fields found in Israeli, Lebanese and Cypriot waters since 2009. The field almost doubles Egypt’s gas reserves.

The discovery of the Zohr field was a boon to the Sisi government in Egypt which had been reliant on fossil fuel imports and had been seeking reliable energy sources to stay civil unrest. However, the field also attracted interest as a new source of energy exports for Europe.

It’s important for the EU not only to have a diversification of supply sources but also of routes,” Cyprus’ Minister of Energy Yiorgos Lakkotrypis said during the discussion.

In 2014, Europe relied on Russia for 37.5% of it’s natural gas imports, according to Eurostat.

“The EU has a big role to play in the Med. It’s not easy but we have no other option,” Lakkotrypis said.

However, the feasibility of exports from the Zohr field to Europe is hampered by growing Egyptian and regional demand, low gas prices, global oversupply, and regional territorial disputes.

The global gas market might not improve until 2025, discussion panel host and chairman of Centrex Italia Massimo Nicolazzi said, making the construction of costly export infrastructure risky.

The exploitation of existing infrastructure is the most cost-effective way to export the gas, El Molla said, specifically referring to two unused liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals on Egypt’s coast.

“Regime change led to the LNG facilities going idle,” El Molla said. “They were built with expansion in mind, however, and adding two trains and expanding them is cheaper than building a new LNG facility in a neighboring country.”

The other main option — a pipeline from the Zohr field to Turkey — would likely have to unite nearby Lebanese, Israeli and Cypriot fields and traverse Cypriot and Turkish waters. Given the political volatility of the region and Cyprus’ ongoing dispute with Turkey, a pipeline seems unlikely to be built soon.

“We will go nowhere without cooperation,” said Lakkotrypis, “I wish the Med were more like the North Sea.”