After a period of relative calm, African migrants have begun arriving en masse into Italy once again, crossing through Tunisia now that Libya has become virtually impassable.
Over the weekend some 2,000 African migrants arrived on the Italian islands of Sicily and Sardinia, many of them having departed from the North African country of Tunisia.
Over the past four years, Libya has been the prime departure point for African migrants attempting to reach Italy by sea, with more than 600,000 migrants successfully making the crossing in this period. People smugglers have taken advantage of the security vacuum created by ongoing armed conflict in Libya and the lack of a single recognized government.
Since last summer, however, migrant crossings have declined sharply after Italy struck a deal with Libya, offering to train, equip, and finance the Libyan coastguard and to work together to turn back vessels and return migrants to Libya.
The deal was endorsed by European leaders and has been credited with significantly reducing the migrants flows arriving on Italy’s southern coast.
Traffickers also struck a deal with the Tripoli government and Libya’s coastguard—backed by the European Union (EU)—began patrolling the coast and intercepting migrant boats before they could reach NGO vessels that would bring them to Europe.
This spring, Libyan coastguard vessels have intercepted a number of migrant boats, returning their passengers to Africa rather than allowing them to…