By Nando Sigona
Frontex’s latest update on the Central Mediterranean route states that migration pressure on Italy ‘remained high in June, with the number of migrants arriving in Italy last month increasing by 24% from the previous month’. This may be factually true but also another example of Frontex’s spinning facts to feed a crisis mentality and moral panic around sea arrivals. Is this part of a strategy to justify the Agency’s enhanced role as the EU border policing agency?
That irregular crossings go up in summer months is nothing new, so that June sees more arrivals than May is just normal. Why not compare data from June 2016 with those from previous years? Perhaps because the story that would emerges doesn’t fit Frontex’s agenda.
According to UNHCR data (based on the Italian Ministero degli Interni), there is a slight decline in arrivals from last June, this follows a trend we have seen in the last few months of 2016 when arrivals in Italy have been going down compared to the same period in 2015 as illustrated in the chart below.
Figure 1: Irregular sea arrivals in Italy, 2014-2016
Is this a long term trend (ie the end of the Mediterranean migration crisis)? Too early to say, if one looks at the total of yearly arrivals it is clear that trends can change rapidly, so a decline over this three month period doesn’t tell us much about what the next few months will bring.
Figure 2: Total vs April-June irregular sea arrivals in Italy, 2014-16
Nonetheless, what I find puzzling is: given the EU’s current political crisis and widespread sense of uncertainty, why does Frontex, instead of emphasising the fact that there are signs the flow may be declining and therefore we may be moving beyond the ‘crisis’, chose to go exactly in the opposite direction? Agency’s priorities (eg concern with losing funds?) seem to prevail over EU’s.