On July 18, 446 North African migrants reached the Italian island of Lampedusa in the Mediterranean Sea via boat. Their arrival comes after the recent deaths of 19 migrants who choked on engine fumes en route to Italy aboard a boat holding over 600 people. Their deaths bring the total to 45 deaths in the past month attributed to asphyxiation and being crushed on board crowded and often shoddy boats headed to southern Italy.
August has not yet begun, but the number of migrants arriving in Italy has already surpassed 2013’s total of 42,000 people. Italy’s border patrol, Mare Nostrum, began in 2013, following the deaths of 360 migrants off the coast of Lampedusa. The patrol agency costs Italy $13 million a month. This year alone, it has already rescued 60,000 migrants from the Mediterranean making their way, often haphazardly so, to Italy’s southern coast.
What awaits those migrants are overcrowded asylum centers buckling under a demand for housing which they simply cannot accommodate. For many, however, these centers are merely a pit stop from which they embark further into Western Europe.
Italy is not the only European country experiencing large numbers of migrant arrivals. Greece’s Public Order Minister Vasilis Kikilias has stated that Greece has endured an 800 percent increase in the number of migrants reaching its coast by boat from Turkey over the past two years. Greece is now seeking more EU funding to deal with the increased arrival of undocumented immigrants.
While the number of non EU migrants to EU countries is increasing, so are anti-immigration sentiments. An EU court recently struck down a law in place since 2007, which required Turkish immigrants seeking visas in Germany to display proficient understanding of the German language before receiving a visa. Of Germany’s 6.2 million foreigners, nearly half are of Turkish descent.
However, despite rising tides of resentment, the droves of migrants rushing to EU boarders show no sign of abating. There were 435,760 asylum claims in the EU last year, an increase of 30 percent from 2012. In the first three months of this year alone, applications have increased by 29 percent compared with the same period last year.
Foreigners remain willing and eager to join the EU. What will happen to them when they do, though, is the real issue at hand.