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UNHCR Italy Factsheet, September 2019

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In September 2019, 2,499 refugees and migrants arrived in Italy by sea, most of whom departed from Tunisia. This is the highest number of monthly sea arrivals this year so far.

NGO rescue vessels continued to operate in the Central Mediterranean. The Ocean Viking vessel was involved in two postdisembarkation transfer exercises led by the European Commission.

On 12 September, 98 refugees were evacuated from Libya, in the context of the third direct humanitarian evacuation from Libya to Italy in 2019 so far.

Operational Context

  • On 5 September, a new Government was sworn-in under the leadership of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte. Stemming from a Democratic Party – Five Stars Movement coalition, the newly formed Government called for a European response vis-à-vis refugee and migrant arrivals. The new Government also opened to the possibility of reviewing the security decrees approved by the previous Government, taking into account the observations made by the President of the Republic upon signing such decrees. The newly appointed Interior Minister, Mrs. Luciana Lamorgese, attended a migration summit in Malta on 23 September, together with the Interior Ministers of France, Germany and Malta, the European Commissioner for Migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, and the Finnish Presidency of the European Council. Reportedly, preliminary agreement was found on a proposal for a temporary scheme to relocate asylum-seekers rescued in the Central Mediterranean to other European countries.

  • On 26 September, the European Council extended the mandate of Operation Sophia until 31 March 2020. However, the deployment of the Operation's naval assets in the Central Mediterranean will continue to remain temporarily suspended.

  • NGO rescue vessels continued to operate in the Central Mediterranean throughout September. During the month, the Norwegian-flagged NGO vessel Ocean Viking, operated by SOS Mediterranèe/MSF, returned to the search and rescue zone and was at the centre of two European Commission-led negotiations on post-disembarkation transfers. Italy did not issue any entry ban against the vessel, but in both cases allocated a disembarkation port only following the agreement by other Member States (France, Germany, Ireland,
    Luxembourg, and Portugal) to receive new arrivals. In the second half of the month, 58 new arrivals who disembarked the Ocean Viking vessel and who were not due to be transferred to other countries were accommodated in facilities run by the Italian Bishops Conference.

  • Notably, in early September, post-disembarkation transfer mechanisms were activated also in the case of the NGO rescue vessel Eleonore, run by Mission Lifeline. The disembarkation followed the captain’s declaration of a state of emergency on board, the vessel having been previously served with a ban preventing it from entering territorial waters. In this case, five EU countries (France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, and Portugal) agreed to receive part of the 104 persons who disembarked the NGO vessel, while the captain and the head of mission were placed under investigation in connection with allegations of aiding and abetting illegal immigration.

  • In September, 2,499 refugees and migrants arrived in Italy by sea, compared to 947 in the same period last year. This is the highest number of monthly sea arrivals this year so far, followed by 1,268 in the previous month. Approximately half of persons arriving by sea in September departed from Tunisia, followed by 23% from Libya, 9% each from Turkey and Algeria, and 8% from Greece. Most persons who departed from Tunisia in September were Tunisian nationals, but increasing numbers of Ivoirians were reported, consistent with previous months. Notably, the most common nationalities of sea arrivals in September were Tunisia, followed by Côte d’Ivoire, Algeria, Iraq, Sudan and Pakistan.
    Between 1 January and 30 September 2019, 7,634 persons arrived in Italy by sea, a 64% decrease compared to the numbers of persons reaching Italian shores in the same period last year (21,024). Most refugees and migrants arriving by sea since the beginning of 2019 originated from Tunisia (28%), Pakistan (12%), Côte d'Ivoire (11%), Algeria (10%), Iraq (8%), Sudan (5%), Bangladesh (3%), Islamic Republic of Iran (2%), Guinea (2%), and Morocco (2%). For further information on sea arrivals in Italy, please refer to the Italy Sea Arrivals Dashboard – September 2019.

  • On 12 September, 98 refugees were evacuated from Libya to Italy. This was the third direct humanitarian evacuation from Libya to Italy in 2019 so far, resulting in 393 vulnerable individuals safely reaching Italy since the beginning of the year. The group mainly originated from Eritrea, but also from Ethiopia, Somalia, and Sudan, and comprised 52 unaccompanied and separated children. Most evacuees experienced detention in Libya and presented with specific needs, having survived torture and sexual violence in transit countries (for further information, please refer to UNHCR press release).

  • On 6 and 9 September, six Eritrean refugee students arrived in Italy from Ethiopia in the context of the University Corridors pilot programme, promoted by the University of Bologna, UNHCR, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Caritas, with the collaboration of other partners (Archdiocese di Bologna, ER.GO – Emilia-Romagna regional agency for higher studies, Federmanager Bologna – Ravenna, Gandhi Charity, Manageritalia Emilia Romagna, and Next Generation Italy). The six refugees who arrived in September are the first group participating in the programme, which will enable them to continue their postgraduate studies at the University of Bologna and at LUISS University in Rome.

  • On 26 September, nine Syrian and Palestinian refugees were resettled from Turkey to Italy in the context of the Italian Resettlement Programme, bringing the total refugees resettled since the beginning of 2018 to 685. Italy pledged to resettle 1,000 refugees in the 2018/2019 period.

  • Between 1 January and 30 September 2019, there were 25,584 new asylum applications in Italy, a 42 per cent decrease compared to the number of applications lodged in the same period last year (43,880). In September, 3,202 asylum-seekers lodged an application in Italy, including 62 unaccompanied and separated children. In 2019 so far, first-time claimants more commonly originated from Pakistan (19%), Nigeria (8%), Bangladesh (6%),
    Ukraine (5%), El Salvador (5%), Peru (5%), Morocco (4%), Senegal (4%), Albania (3%),
    India (3%) and Venezuela (3%).

  • As of 30 September, 99,599 asylum-seekers and refugees were accommodated in reception facilities across Italy. Approximately 75% of them (74,738 persons) were accommodated in first-line reception facilities, predominantly located in Lombardy, EmiliaRomagna, and Piedmont. An additional 25% (24,674 persons) were accommodated in second-line facilities belonging to the SIPROIMI network, most of which are located in Sicily, followed by Latium, and Emilia-Romagna. As of 30 September, 487 persons were accommodated in hotspots, all of whom were in Sicily.2 Notably, transfers of asylumseekers from the Italy-France border area in Ventimiglia to the Taranto hotspot continue to occur, as well as reported occurrences of violence before and during the transfer.