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Mediterranean migrant crossings to Italy double in a month

Fighting near departure points in North Africa and poor weather were blamed for a dip in people-smuggling activities in December.

But the overall rate of arrivals is now in line with last year.

Data on “irregular border crossings” released by European border agency Frontex yesterday revealed Eritreans made up the largest group of migrants on the route, followed by Pakistanis and Tunisians. 

But recent months have seen an increasing number of Libyans making the perilous crossing.

In Spain the 1,300 arrivals detected last month was more than 20 per cent higher than a year ago.

The statistics point to another summer of chaos as increasing numbers of mainly young men seek a new life in Europe. 

Numbers are expected to rocket as the weather improves. 

MEP Steven Woolfe said: “This is now a long-term issue, which will never be solved while there is denial within European politics that intercepting the crossings from their departure point is the only solution, as seen in Australia.” 

Frontex continues to carry out rescue missions in the Mediterranean, regularly ferrying boatloads of stricken migrants to Italy from where they are free to travel across the EU’s borderless Schengen Area. 

The goal for many is to make their way to Calais, the nearest point to Britain from mainland Europe. 

The UK’s promise to France that it will accept more asylum seekers, and uncertainty surrounding the terms of Brexit, has encouraged vast numbers of to flock to northern France. 

Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association, said: “We sympathise with the plight of the migrants but our main concern rests with the safety of UK-bound HGV drivers. They are now being attacked on an almost daily basis as the number of refugees intent on reaching the UK increases.” 

A European Commission spokesman said migration would remain a challenge “for decades”.

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