By Philip Pullella and Antonella Cinelli
ROME– As many as 5,000 migrants a week could arrive in Italy by sea from North African ports in the next five months unless something is done about the issue, according to an interior ministry projection.
Arrivals of migrants usually spike in the spring and summer months because of better weather in the Mediterranean but the situation is expected to worsen because of growing lawlessness and anarchy in Libya, from where most of the migrants depart.
Up to 900 people were feared dead after their boat sank on its way to Europe from Libya at the weekend including many women and children locked below deck, prompting calls for joint action to stop the flow of migrants fleeing war and hardship in Africa.
The deaths, in what appears to have been the worst disaster ever among migrants fleeing by sea to Europe from north Africa, caused shock in Europe where a decision to scale back naval operations last year seems to have increased the risks for migrants without reducing their numbers.
Italy shut down its “Mare Nostrum” mission that was credited with saving the lives of more than 100,000 migrants last year because other EU countries refused to pay for it.
It was replaced with a smaller EU scheme whose main focus is to patrol the bloc’s borders, after some countries argued saving migrants encouraged more to come.
EU leaders at an emergency summit in Brussels on Thursday were expected to reverse that decision.[ID: NL5N0XJ524]