TEHRAN, Young Journalists Club (YJC) -UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi made the plea on Saturday, saying that Italy needed more international support to tackle the growing number of refugees who have braved the Mediterranean Sea in pursuit of reaching Europe this year.
“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.”
Acknowledging that Rome was “playing its part” in accepting and protecting those rescued from the Mediterranean, the UN official said, “These efforts must be continued and strengthened. But this cannot be an Italian problem alone.”
Grandi stressed that Europe had to follow an “urgent distribution system” of refugees and should widen legal channels for the admission of asylum seekers.
The remarks were made as the interior ministers of France, Germany, and Italy prepare to meet in Paris on July 2 to discuss a “coordinated approach” to help Italy, which threatened last week to close its doors to people arriving on boats that were not flying Italian flags.
Italy is struggling to host thousands of refugees, who have traveled through the Mediterranean to escape war, persecution or poverty in their home countries. Some Italians are against the decision to settle the refugees in the European country.
Since January 2017, 83,650 people have reached Italy by sea, an increase of nearly 20 percent compared to the same period last year, according to UN figures. Reports say that nearly all of Italy’s 200,000 places for accommodating refugees have been filled.
Meanwhile, the European Union’s commissioner for migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said the bloc was “ready to support” Italy with the migration crisis after Rome appealed to Brussels for help in taking in African refugees.
Makeshift camp at border crossing between Italy and France
In a separate development, a video emerged on Saturday, showing refugees stranded at a border crossing between Italy and France near the coastal city of Ventimiglia, where they have set up a makeshift camp despite repeated expulsions of refugees trying to cross to the French side.
On June 25, the municipal district of Ventimiglia ordered the clearance of the area along the Roja River in Ventimiglia, which is home to some 400 refugees, prompting the group to march toward France. Police were forced to use tear gas against the refugees as they sought to bypass the security barricade.
Europe has been experiencing an unprecedented influx of refugees over the past months. The asylum seekers flee conflict-ridden zones in North Africa and the Middle East, particularly Syria.
Many blame major European powers for the exodus, saying their policies have led to a surge in terrorism and war in the violence-hit regions, forcing more people from their homes.