04:17 GMT +317 October 2019
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    Migrants stand in line after disembarking from the Norwegian vessel Siem Pilot at Pozzallo's harbour, Italy, March 29, 2016.

    Italy Bracing for Huge Refugee Surge as 2016 Arrival Numbers Rise

    © REUTERS / Antonio Parrinello
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    Major Migrant Crisis in Europe (1819)

    Italian authorities are bracing themselves for a huge surge in the number of refugees and migrants traveling to the country from North Africa, after recent statistics revealed an increase in the number of people being rescued by lifeguard services.

    In a concern for European authorities looking to reduce the number of irregular arrivals in the EU, the beginning of 2016 has seen a spike in the number of refugees and migrants entering Italy compared to the same time last year.

    Italian Interior Ministry figures have shown that in the first three months of 2016, more than 16,000 people have been rescued in calls of distress in the Mediterranean Sea between Libya and Sicily, 6,000 more than during the same period of time last year.

    The figures have raised concerns that Europe's migration crisis could worsen in 2016, as continued instability and violence drives many people from their homes in the Middle East and Africa.

    These concerns were also backed up by more recent figures, with Italy's coast guard announcing on Tuesday that 1,569 people had been rescued in 11 different operations over the weekend.

    This has led many to question the effectiveness of the newly announced EU-Turkey refugee deal, which is aimed at stemming the flow of refugees and migrants entering Greece from Turkey.

    EU Commission spokesperson Natasha Bertaud said "less than 1,000" people had arrived in Greece over the past week, down from an average of 2,000 per day prior to the deal.

    However, critics say the deal will not address the broader issue of stopping people traveling to the EU, but will merely shift the problem away from Greece and to other hotspots, such as Italy.

    More than 1.2 million migrants and refugees have entered Europe since the beginning of 2015, with the majority entering the EU through Greece, via Turkey.

    However, with the weather set to improve in the coming months, there are concerns among European officials that those numbers could be replicated throughout 2016, placing more strain on the resources of some already overstretched EU states.

    Major Migrant Crisis in Europe (1819)


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    EU-Turkey summit, migrant crisis, deal, rescue operation, humanitarian crisis, refugees, European Union, Italy, Europe, Mediterranean Sea
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