36,000 Nigerian illegal immigrants arrived Italy last year

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Italian sailors with the Uraniam Navy Ship rescue 109 African migrants from Gambia, Mali, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Guinea, and Nigeria, from a rubber boat in the sea between Italy and Libya, October 4, 2014. The migrants claimed to have left from Tripoli the evening of October 3rd, and spent the night moving north. The Italian Navy has several navy ships patrolling international and Italian waters at any given time in an attempt to rescue migrants, and transfer them safely to shore in Italy. Since the beginning of 2014, roughly 120,000 refugees have landed in Italy, more than double the total for the entire year of 2013. (Credit: Lynsey Addario for The New York Times) NYTCREDIT: Lynsey Addario for The New York Times NYTCREDIT: Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

Illegal migrants from Nigeria account for 21 per cent of the total  171, 299 immigrants that crossed the Mediterranean to arrive Italy last year.

Figures from the Italian Interior Ministry estimated the record of Nigerian arrivals at 36,000, with most of them claiming they were running away from Boko Haram insurgency or Niger Delta crisis.

The estimate was as at November 2016.

News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) said the Nigerian government was briefed by the Italian authorities on this development late last year.

In a report published December 9, Frontex, the European Union border agency, some 181,000 migrants eventually arrived in Italy last year from North Africa, the highest number ever recorded. It was 20 per cent more than last year.

The largest group of migrants arriving were Nigerians, Eritreans and  Guineans, the agency added.

Nigerians, along with Guineans also formed the bulk of migrants rescued at sea, especially in November, said Frontex.

The flow of Nigerian immigrants to Italy via the Mediterranean  backdoor began in 2008 and declined for five years. From 2013, the number jumped.

In sorting out the migrants, Italian and European authorities have been able to distinguish between migrants from war torn states such as  Syria from the hordes of economic refugees from Africa.

“The flow from Syria and Iraq is somewhat contingent while that from  Africa is structural.

Some European citizens support welcoming refugees from Syria while  support for African economic migrants among public opinion is  extremely low,” Mattia Toaldo, senior policy fellow at the European  Council on Foreign Relations said.

Italy meanwhile, has reopened its embassy in Libya to enable its  officials work with Libyan government to stem the flow of immigrants, through the Libyan route, the most popularly used by Nigerian migrants.

The Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti announced the decision on Monday.

The embassy was closed down in 2015, along with all other Western embassies as the North African country descended into violence.

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