Up to one million migrants could set off for Europe from Libya this year, the executive director of the EU's Frontex border agency told ANSA on Friday. Most of the migrants will seek to enter Europe through Italy.

"We have to be ready to address a more difficult situation than last year," said Fabrice Leggeri. "Our sources tell us that there are anywhere between 500,000 to a million people ready to leave Libya."

Frontex coordinates the EU's Triton maritime patrol operation in the southern Mediterranean, which replaced Italy's better-funded Mare Nostrum migrant-search-and-rescue programme last year. According to Leggeri, Frontex "cannot cope" on its own with a migrant emergency in the Mediterranean. He asked for "more resources" from the EU as well as a "contribution" from more member states.

Over 900 migrants were rescued near Sicily this week but 50 others were feared drowned after a boat capsized off the coast. The International Organisation for Migration warned on Friday that the "human smuggling season" was picking up, with nearly 9,000 arrivals by sea this year so far, despite poor weather conditions.

Asked whether he thought ISIS is behind the rise in trafficking, Leggeri said that Europe has to be aware of the risks. "At this point I have no proof that they have control of the illegal immigration situation. But we must be careful."'


SOURCE| Middle East Monitor