The Latest: Italy says migrant arrivals up 20 pct this year

PARIS (AP) — The Latest on Europe’s migration crisis (all times local): 8:10 p.m. Italy’s interior ministry says the number of migrant arrivals so far this year is nearly 20 percent higher than at the same time in 2016.

The interior ministry released figures showing that by Monday morning, 85,183 migrants had reached Italian shores after rescue in the central Mediterranean, compared with 71,279 at this time last year.  

In all of 2016, 181,436 migrants, rescued from smugglers’ boats launched from Libya, reached Italy. The migrants declare their nationality upon reaching Italy as part of their bid to win asylum. By Monday, 13,516 had said they are Nigerian. Nearly 8,000 said they were from Bangladesh, while 7,538 said they were from Guinea. Most of them are economic migrants and unlikely to gain asylum.

5:05 p.m.

Italy will host a conference in Rome this week aimed at protecting the European Union’s external borders while strengthening efforts to work with African nations along migrant transit routes to Libya.

The Foreign Ministry says participants at Thursday’s meeting will include officials from the EU and U.N. refugee and migrant offices.

Italy is struggling with costs and logistics to care for hundreds of thousands of migrants rescued in the Mediterranean and brought to its shores over the last few years.

The government has pressed for more assistance and attention to African nations along human traffickers’ routes that migrants travel, headed to smugglers boats launched from Libyan shores toward Europe.

5 p.m.

Spain’s foreign minister says that all European Union members need to discuss Italy’s proposal for other countries in the bloc to open their ports to ships carrying rescued migrants.

Alfonso Dastis told journalists in Madrid that “our position is that exceptional situations require exceptional measures as a response, but they need to be discussed among all countries.”

Italy has pleaded for help as thousands of migrants and refugees pour onto its shores. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, decried an “unfolding tragedy” in the country.

Dastis said that Spain “hasn’t received a formal request” about receiving some of the migrants. He said that he expected the issue to be discussed by EU interior ministers and foreign ministers at separate meetings Thursday.

2 p.m.

Italy’s premier says that unless other EU countries assume some of the migrant crisis burden, the huge numbers could feed hostility in Italian society.

Premier Paolo Gentiloni in a speech Monday at a Rome-based U.N. food agency noted that “Italy has mobilized to deal with the flows of migrants” rescued in the central Mediterranean from smugglers’ boats and brought to Italian shores.

Gentiloni said Europe must help if it “wants to stay faithful to its own principles, own history, own civilization.”

Some 83,000 migrants have arrived in Italy so far this year.

1:20 p.m.

The U.N. refugee agency says people smuggling and migrant flows in Libya are on the rise, so Europe may face increased flows of migrants and refugees in the future.

UNHCR says 84,830 migrants and refugees have reached Italy’s shores so far this year from Libya, a 19-percent increase from a year earlier. Seven in 10 are economic migrants and the rest are “people in need of protection” like refugees and asylum-seekers.

In a new report on migration trends in Libya issued Monday, UNHCR noted that largely lawless Libya has become a major thoroughfare for migrants, but patterns of movement are changing.

UNHCR says “trafficking for sexual exploitation” seems to be increasing, particularly affecting Nigerian and Cameroonian women. Organized crime rings are becoming internationalized.

12:55 p.m.

Romanian border police say they have detained 16 migrants from Iraq and Syria who told authorities they wanted to reach the visa-free Schengen travel zone.

Police said in statement Monday that they found the migrants some 200 meters (200 yards) from the border with Hungary on Sunday.

The statement said there were six women, three men and seven children, the youngest 2 years old. They had already asked for political asylum in Romania.

They told police they were trying to reach the Schengen country, of which Hungary is a member, but Romania isn’t.

They are being investigated on suspicion of trying to illegally cross the border.

12:45 p.m.

Authorities in Italy are investigating an attack on an empty hotel designated to host migrants, near the northern city of Brescia.

No one was injured when two incendiary devices were hurled Sunday at the Hotel Eureka, which sustained scant damage. It has been vacant for years.

Vobarno town Mayor Giuseppe Lancini said interior ministry officials told him last week the hotel would host 35 asylum-seekers. He said he briefed the residents, who number about 400, of a hamlet near the hotel and that the local population opposed the decision.

Premier Paolo Gentiloni’s center-left government has stepped up pressure on fellow EU nations to convince them to take in some of the hundreds of thousands of migrants rescued in the Mediterranean and brought to Italy in recent years.

10:50 a.m.

France, Germany and the EU’s migration chief have pledged more money for Libya’s coast guard and increased efforts to help Italy cope with a surge of migrant arrivals from Africa.

The French Interior Ministry said in a statement Monday that it also will work on a “code of conduct” for aid groups working in the Mediterranean.

The EU migration commissioner and German, French and Italian interior ministers held a crisis meeting Sunday night after Italy pleaded for European help. Some 10,000 migrants were rescued from the sea in recent days.

The officials promised additional money and training for the Libyan coast guard and to find ways to reinforce Libya’s largely lawless southern border, which smugglers exploit to shuttle African migrants to Europe.

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