More than 25,000 migrants landed in Sicily between January and the end of April this year, according to EU data.
Local politicians say they are struggling to cope with such an influx and the strain it puts on the public purse. The Italian government wants northern European countries to do more.
In the small port town of Pozzallo on the country’s southern coast an Italian navy ship docks after picking up 300 immigrants. They come from all corners of the Middle East and Africa where they say they face persecution.They paid hundreds of euros per person to flee to Europe’s shores, but were picked up near an Italian island close to Tunisia.
“We have intercepted them about 70 miles from Lampedusa . The rescue took place in rough seas.There are several similar operations in progress “ said Katia Pellegrino, an Italian navy commander.
Italian authorities arrested four smugglers in connection with these new arrivals.
Their ‘welcome’ to Europe starts at a transit centre where officials register their details. The would-be migrants all receive basic clothing. The centre is meant to house 180 people, but often is home to double that. People stay here for months due to the lack of accommodation elsewhere.
Many of the arrivals make the dangerous crossing across the Mediterranean sea in ramshackle boats. Those who left Africa from Libya say they faced regular attacks from militiamen there.
“Even if you are you are just walking in the street , they will came and rape you, take your money, beat you seriously , Also the police , they arrest you without doing anything . I have wounds in my arms Caused by the Libyans” said one.
Syrians fleeing their country’s three-year civil war say they have nothing left back home: “our houses have been destroyed. Many of our relatives died during the war” one refugee told euronews, “we emigrate to preserve the life of our children.”
For many, Europe represents a better life and a better future.
Most of the immigrants euronews spoke to said they planned to head north from Italy if they could.
The mayor of Pozzallo, Luigi Ammatuna, wants the EU to change the rules on seeking asylum, which requires illegal immigrants to lodge their request in the country where they arrive.
“It seems to me very wrong. The fact that many, if processed in Italy, should have to remain in Italy,” he said.