Overview and developments
In 2018, 23,370 refugees and migrants arrived in Italy by sea, compared to 119, 369 last year. Monthly sea arrivals decreased further in the second half of the year, with a low of 359 arrivals in December. 56 per cent of new arrivals departed from Libya in 2018, compared to 91 per cent in 2017. Furthermore, 25 per cent crossed from Tunisia, followed by Turkey (12 per cent), Greece (4 per cent), and Algeria (3 per cent). Refugees and migrants reaching Italian shores in 2018 most commonly originate from Tunisia, Eritrea, Iraq, Sudan, Pakistan, Nigeria, Algeria, Côte d'Ivoire, Mali, and Guinea. Unaccompanied and separated children (UASC) accounted for 15 per cent of sea arrivals this year.
In December, NGO vessels that rescued refugees and migrants in the Central Mediterranean were prevented from disembarking in the safe port closest to the location of the rescue operation, including Italy. Over 310 persons rescued by the Open Arms vessel on 21 December were only allowed to disembark in Spain on 28 December. Furthermore, on 22 December and 29 December, Sea Watch and Sea Eye rescued 32 and 17 refugees and migrants, respectively. As of 31 December, no safe port had been allocated for the rescued individuals to disembark. UNHCR urged a rapid solution to the situation appealing to states to urgently offer safe ports and disembarkation to the two NGO vessels.
On 19 December, 103 asylum-seekers and refugees were evacuated from Libya to Italy. Evacuees originate from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, and The Democratic Republic of Congo, and include 5 unaccompanied children, 56 adult women, and 31 accompanied children. Most of them endured severe abuse including sexual and gender-based violence in transit countries. UNHCR praised the Italian Government for its commitment to evacuate refugees and hopes that it will further strengthen safe legal pathways for persons fleeing conflict and persecution.
In 2018, 50,674 new asylum applications were lodged in Italy, a 61 per cent decrease compared to the same period last year. As of 31 December 2018, 135,858 adult asylum-seekers were accommodated in reception facilities across the country, compared to over 183,600 at the end of 2017. On 19 December, the Ministry of the Interior published the new contract specifications for reception facilities, outlining services to be provided to asylum-seekers. In early December, an 18-year-old Gambian man died in a fire in the informal settlement of San Ferdinando, Calabria, where an estimated 800 persons live in destitute conditions. UNHCR issued a press statement, highlighting difficulties pertaining to integration prospects in Italy, and the need to adequately respond to the reception needs of asylumseekers and refugees.