The UN refugee agency is heaping pressure on Europe to help Italy defuse the “unfolding tragedy” of tens of thousands migrants flooding its shores. Italy needs more international support to cope with a growing number of migrants who have braved a perilous Mediterranean crossing to reach Europe this year, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said today. “What is happening in front of our eyes in Italy is an unfolding tragedy,” Grandi said in a statement. “In the course of last weekend, 12,600 migrants and refugees arrived on its shores, and an estimated 2,030 have lost their lives in the Mediterranean since the beginning of the year.”
Italy, he said, was “playing its part” in taking in those rescued and offering protection to those in need. “These efforts must be continued and strengthened. But this cannot be an Italian problem alone.” Separately, a source in Paris said the interior ministers of France, Germany and Italy would meet in the French capital on Sunday to discuss a “coordinated approach” to help Rome. Last week, Italy threatened to close its doors to people arriving on boats which were not flying Italian flags. Europe has to get fully involved through an “urgent distribution system” of migrants and should widen legal channels so that migrants can be admitted, Grandi said.
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He also called for greater international efforts to tackle the causes of migration, to protect people and to fight trafficking. Since the beginning of the year, 83,650 people have reached Italy by sea, an increase of nearly 20 percent compared to the same period last year, UN figures show. Nearly all of Italy’s 200,000 places for accommodating migrants have been filled. Many of the migrants need health care and support, with a large percentage of them non-accompanied children and victims of sexual violence, says the UN.
The number of migrant children arriving on their own rose two-fold between 2015 and 2016, reaching 25,846 at the end of last year. Europe has been grappling with the worst migration crisis since the end of World War II with an influx of people fleeing the wars in Syria and Iraq while others from Africa are seeking an escape from poverty or political persecution. And there continue to be flare-ups of violence sparked by the tensions among the migrants and refugees gathered in western Europe. In the northern French port city of Calais, riot police stepped in over the past two days to break up fighting among African migrants armed with sticks and rocks. Fighting between Eritreans against Ethiopians on Saturday left 16 people injured, with police making 10 arrests. That followed brawls on Friday night when security forces used tear gas to disperse the feuding sides, Calais Mayor Philippe Mignonet said.