The exodus from Africa to Europe continues to accelerate as thousands of Africans are crossing the Mediterranean in order to reach Italy and the prospect of work. The number of migrants hitting Italy’s southern shores has soared by more than 50% this years and at 33,000 is already 13,000 more than arrived in 2007. At least 500 people never reached Italy because they drowned at sea. Since December 24, at least 2,400 additional people reached the Pelagic islands between Libya and Sicily. Experts on migration believe the large number coming during the midst of winter suggests they are being driven by economic factors which allows smugglers to pile them into aged vessels for the perilous voyage. Italy’s Interior Minister, Roberto Maroni, threatened to fly the migrants back to their homelands, but this seems doubtful in terms of the sheer number arriving and seeking asylum.
Ironically, the Berlusconi government rode to power on the promise of being tough toward migrants and now faces the prospect of dealing with thousands of additional migrants. Many are coming from Libya despite promises by its dictator Gaddafi’s promises to crack down on the smugglers. In the meantime while Berlusconi’s followers denounce newly arrived immigrants, thousands sit in camps or wherever space can be found awaiting news of their futures.