Nigerians arrive in Italy via Libya, says Frontex

Frontex officer throws life vests to refugees. [Frontex]

Frontex, the EU border management agency, said some 5,600 refugees, mostly Nigerians, arrived in Italy last month by boat, after crossing the Mediterranean. Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orbán was quoted as saying that 50 million of Nigerians could arrive in Italy via Libya.

Frontex said that Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans accounted for the most of the 68,000 people that reached Greece last month, while some 5,600 – mostly Nigerians – arrived via Italy, attributing the drop of those arriving, mostly by boat, to the weather.

More than a million refugees reached Europe last year, mainly via Greece after traveling across the Mediterranean, from Turkey. This number, however, is likely to be dwarfed this year, after the weather improves.

At the recent EU summit on 19 February, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov told the press that EU leaders had mentioned the previous night, during the summit, “apocalyptic figures” of expected future migration to Europe.

“One after the other, my colleagues mentioned apocalyptical figures. Finland, for instance [the Prime Minister Juha Sipilä]said one million and a half are waiting on the other side of the border [in Russia]. And we are talking only about Syria. But what will happen in other countries? How many millions will come from Egypt? Five million, some say. I didn’t count them, it’s my colleagues who say so. How many will come from Africa, how many from Morocco? From Algeria, from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan?”

Borissov said that he had reiterated his proposal that the EU should close its external borders, while keeping the internal borders open. He argued that refugees should not be allowed to trespass by sea, and only enter through border crossing points, if they qualify to be accepted.

Borissov also slammed the EU decision to set up hotspots on EU territory. He said hotspots should be set up in neighbouring countries and only those refugees who qualify for asylum should be taken directly to the countries who are willing to accept them, he said.

At an earlier EU meeting, Orbán was quoted as saying that 50 million Nigerians were preparing to come to Italy via Libya, when the weather improves. Nigeria has a population of 180 million and is considered a “safe country”. Contacted by EURACTIV, Frontex said that it was “not aware of such a prognosis”.

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