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Crossing the border fence

Whether it's an overcrowded leaking boat, a suffocating container or climbing over razor wire fences, UNHCR recognises that individuals are willing to take any risk that increases their chances of starting a new life abroad. That's particularly evident on the Italian island of Lampedusa. With a population of 6,000 and a surface area of 20.2 km2, Lampedusa would have always struggled to cope as an entry point for North Africans wanting to make their way to Europe. But the island has become so overwhelmed by the influx and the constant casualties that it has become the paradigm for policy makers and international lawyers attempting to stop human trafficking and regulate a problem that shows no signs of slowing.

Lampedusa has become so symbolic of the desperate attempts of some that when Pope Francis visited Italy in July this year, he met with a group of recently arrived migrants before boarding an Italian coastguard vessel to cast a floral wreath into the sea in memory of those who had died during the attempted crossing. And the island was at the centre of European leaders' concerns when they began to question the Schengen agreements and push for legal reforms. Do the numbers justify the focus on this one island?

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees attempts to collect numbers on 'irregular arrivals' (don't be misled by the term, it actually means the same thing as illegal/undocumented migrants) and although estimations, the numbers show that thousands are attempting to get to Europe each year via Italy as well as Spain and Malta.


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