The Italian Refugee Crisis in Numbers

I’ve seen a lot of nonsense talked about the refugee crisis in Europe. This uses Italy as an example but applies to all of Europe. Take a look at some FACTS!

How many immigrants are currently being processed in Italy?

Right now there are 93,608 migrants in the Italian system awaiting processing, some housed in government centres and some in temporary regional centres set up to handle the emergency.

Who are the immigrants currently arriving in Italy?

So far in 2015 they are mainly Eritreans (29,019), Nigerians (13,788), Somalians (8,559), Sudanese (6,745) and Syrians (6.324). These nationalities constitute two-thirds of the total. Eritreans, Sudanese and Somalians almost all qualify for refugee status when processed, as do Syrians.

How many asylum applications are from men?

I have found Eurostat figures for the EU as a whole in 2014, but not for Italy specifically. Males exceed females in asylum applications in all age ranges except the over-65’s. Males peak in the 18-34 age category, where 77% of all asylum applications come from men and just 23% from women.

How many immigrants have died trying to reach Italy?

At least 1,750 people drowned in the Mediterranean trying to reach Italy in the first 4 months of 2015. This was thirty times higher than the same period the previous year.


A mass funeral was held in Sicily for 366 refugees from Eritrea who drowned just off the coast of Lampedusa


How much does the crisis cost Italy?

Italy spent 628 million Euros saving and processing migrants in 2014 and has budgeted 800 million for 2015. (I am deliberately saying migrants not refugees in this instance, because some of them do not qualify for refugee status and are expelled.) Put another way, each refugee costs the Italian state 35 Euros per day. The European Union has pledged Italy 560 million Euros over the next 5 years to help handle immigrants.

Which Italian regions are processing the immigrants? 

These are the top ten regions in Italy receiving and processing refugees: Sicily 16%, Lombardy 13%, Lazio 9%, Campania 8%, Piedmont 7%, Veneto 7%, Puglia 6%, Tuscany 6%, Emilia-Romagna 6%, and Calabria 5%.

Does Italy have too many refugees?

Italy’s population consists of one refugee per 1,000 Italians, which is far below the Swedish level of 11 refugees per 1,000 swedes or even the French level of 3.5 refugees per 1,000 Frenchmen. Lebanon, which borders Syria, has 1,2 million refugees, which is a quarter of the population of the country.


What are they leaving behind? Here's a picture of Damascus
What are they leaving behind? Here’s a picture of Damascus


How many migrants do qualify for refugee status?

Italy is more generous than the EU average of 44.7%, and currently accepts 58.5% of its applications as immigrants. Part of the reason for this is cultural. Northern European countries have a black and white system, whereby applicants are either accepted as refugees or not. Italy, with its deep affinity for shades of grey, has three separate categories within which it accepts immigrants as “refugees”. One is clear refugee status, one is probably refugee status, and the third category could be described as “You’re probably not a refugee but we bet it’s horrible where you came from so we won’t send you back.”

By law, unaccompanied minors are never refused. A worryingly large number of unaccompanied children began entering Italy from Tunisia and Morocco in 2014.

What happens if the application for asylum is refused?

Applicants can appeal within 15 days and the final decision will be made by tribunal within 3 months. If this is refused, they are deported.


Refugees in a processing centre in Sicily


How does deportation take place?

People are deported by aeroplane back to the country they came from. The cost to the Italian state is 5 airline tickets, one for the person being deported and return tickets for the two guards who accompany him or her. This only happens if they go through the formal application system, which mean being detained in a center and not allowed to leave until their status has been decided.

If they sneak into the country and do not declare their presence to the authorities (being legally classified as clandestini) they often get away with living in Italy for years; if found by the authorities, they are not deported but imprisoned for 1 to 5 years instead.

Between 2000 and 2011, the number of foreigners in Italian prisons increased by 339.7% whilst the overall prison population in Italy rose by a far more modest 55.1%. We do not know how many of these foreign prisoners were imprisoned for actual crimes and how many simply for being illegal immigants.

Are people more likely to gain asylum in one EU country than another?

Yes. The variation is huge. For example, Sweden says yes to 76.6% of asylum seekers whereas Hungary says yes to only 9.4%.

This data I have given so far is ambiguous, because we don’t know if Sweden gets more applications from genuine refugees whereas Hungary gets a lot of applications from non-refugees. We can get closer to the truth by looking at relative statistics on applications from one single country.

Sweden accepts 99.8% of asylum applications from Syrians, whereas Hungary accepts only 69.2% of them. Italy is lower even than Hungary, accepting only 64,3% of asylum applications from Syrians. France (95,6%) and Germany (93,6%) are high like Sweden.

These statistics makes an absolute mockery of the claims by German publication Der Spiegel that Italy has been letting all and sundry enter the EU with refugee status as a trick to force Germany and other nations to do something about the refugee crisis.


I think this makes it clear that the EU needs to improve consistency in the way each member country handles refugees and evaluates their asylum applications, to unite efforts in funding the aid effort, and to review the outdated agreement that refugees must stay in the first safe country they reach.

Have you got any ideas on how they should do it?


The source for most of this data was Italian newspaper La Repubblica



15 thoughts on “The Italian Refugee Crisis in Numbers

  1. In the meantime it is clear that the immigrants themselves want to go to Germany, because chancellor Merkel invited them for a life-long free lunch. So why keeping them back in Italy?

    You write that refused asylum seekers are sent back?! This is not the case in Germany. Once you are refused, in approx. 85% of all cases you can stay in a “tolerated” status. Because “deporting” sounds like Nazi deportation, and if an asylum seeker is in danger of getting a cold on the journey or falling below German standards of poverty in his home country it would be Nazi to send him back … German authorities prefer to break the law instead.

    Does Italy really send them back? This would be interesting to know! Or do the authorities only claim to do so?

    And the flow of refugees keeps constantly coming. Estimations run now up to 1.2 Mio. until end of this year, with some 5-10 Mio. to come in next years.

    German soldiers have to leave their barracks for asylum seekers — the soldiers are now living in their tents. In Berlin they plan to start with confiscations of flats. In other cities, renters of public flats (mostly poor people) got their rental treaty cancelled in order to have flats for refugees.

    Today, the German parliament unanimously welcomed a speech by chancellor Merkel with cheers (the last time we had this situation was 70 years ago). What did Merkel say? We have to invest in the protection of the world’s climate, then fewer people would become refugees. This is, what she said. More reasonable Germans are under shock, these days.

    If it happens that I have to leave Germany to avoid the secret police, would it be possible to find shelter on Sicily?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Interesting question about whether they really do send them back, or if that is just in theory. I honestly have no idea. It wouldn’t surprise me if they were not really sending them back. I know that decisions about whether or not asylum applications will be accepted take absolutely ages; the processing centres deliberately make them last ages to ensure they are always full, as they get paid according to the number of people they are hosting and letting people get processed fast would mean they would earn less!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I understand how the Italians must resent asylum seekers. People here in the UK have made rooms available in their houses for refugees. But by law countries in the EU must provide self-contained houses and give benefits for asylum seekers. There are far more white British people living rough in cardboard boxes on the streets than there have ever been. British families too in emergency housing, while paying taxes for so that people who have never contributed to the system get the help they need. This obvious reality stirs up support for the right-wing party UKIP.
    I think much of the problem regarding Africa, is that since the EU only trade with each other and no longer with places like Africa, along with bad weather and crops, poverty is sinking any growth, allowing the rise of Islamic militants, which seems to have been supported by the West. Now Russia is displaying its military force in the Mediterranean. Russian planes also hover over Southampton Water where I live (England). Putin is backing Assad in Syria, who seems to be the lesser of the two evils in his fight against ISIL. The world should take the refugees but we cannot take whole countries. Russia and Nato need to talk as much as possible before a WW3 is on our hands.
    Incidentally you may be interested to hear what someone from Syria has to say – I have re-blogged on my site.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very interesting observations. I think the Italians in the nirth seem to resent the help asylum seekers get when they get basically nothing from the state in hard times, but amazingly I think the Sicilians seems to think we’re all in teh same boat, and want to help if they can.
      I agree Russia’s recent actions are very worrying.

      I think the obvious solution is for the large weapons producing countries to stop selling weapons which will end up in those parts of the world. It’s easy to make a war fizzle out of there are no eapons adn they end up onyl abel to fight in hand-to-hand compbat or by throwing stones at each other.

      The Pope said that in so many words when he met Prosident Obama. I wonder if that country, which professes to be so deeply Christian, will listen to him?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. What I don’t understand is why the European Parliament as not approached the U.S.A to demand financial support to handle this crisis. After all it is/was the Americans (Bush/Chaney) who are responsible for this mess in the Middle East and Northern Africa.


  3. Dear Veronica,
    I am planning to go to Sicily for vacation in June with my husband and I was wondering how you see the refugee situation for tourists, e.g., are there areas of the island, which are more affected and that you would not recommend?
    Thank you.
    Br, Lise


    1. There’s no part of the island that I would not recommend! There’s really nowhere in Sicily that feels packed with refugees, and in the parts where you do notice them they are making a positive impact by running exciting market stalls. Mostly they are working behind the scenes in kitchens where local Sicilians then bring you the food, for example. So go to Sicily and enjoy it!

      Liked by 1 person

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