Increase in illegal Immigrants crossing Italian border

Migrants grasped the hull of a boat that ran aground near the Greek island of Rhodes on Monday. Credit Loukas Mastis/European Pressphoto Agency



Last week 240 people tried to cross the Italian border into Switzerland illegally, with 120 migrants reaching Switzerland over the weekend alone. Ten additional guards have been sent to the Ticino border. 

“Compared with previous months the number has more than trebled. The average has been around 70 people a week,” said Davide Bassi, spokesman of Swiss border guard region IV, which is Lugano in the southern Italian-speaking canton of Ticino.

This was a surprise, he said, confirming a report in the 20Minuten newspaper on Wednesday, since normally immigrant numbers drop at the beginning of the warm season. “Usually in spring and summer many refugees stay in Italy,” he said.

Bassi explained that whereas last year they had seen an increase in immigrants from Syria, this year most were from Gambia, Liberia and Somalia. They are currently in the asylum centre in Chiasso.

He added that the immigrants’ strategy for entering Switzerland appeared to be changing: previously they were almost always picked up on trains; now “at least 10% are using regional bus lines to come to Switzerland”.

Further increase expected

According to Attila Lardori, spokesman for the Swiss Customs Federation, the latest wave of refugees is caused by the recent events in the Mediterranean.

“Those being held have recently landed in southern Italy. If more boats land in Italy, as have done in recent weeks, it will also be felt on our borders, with a time delay,” he told 20Minuten.

“If the political and economic situation stays the same, we expect a further increase in arrests between May and September.”

Numbers risking the journey from north Africa in rickety boats have risen further in recent weeks since up to 900 people are believed to have drowned last month in the worst Mediterranean shipwreck in living memory.

Around 7,000 migrants were rescued from overcrowded boats over the weekend and on Monday, and ten dead bodies were recovered, Italy’s coast guard said. About 1,800 people are believed to have died during the crossing from Africa to Europe so far this year.

The vast majority of the migrants leave from Libya. Some 51,000 have entered Europe by sea, 30,500 via Italy, according to the UN refugee agency.

As many as 200,000 migrants are expected to arrive in Italy by sea from North Africa by the end of this year, according to Italian government projections.

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