Mar 02, 2019 09:50 Asia/Tehran

Just 262 boat migrants reached Italy this year via the Mediterranean sea, a tiny fraction of the 5,247 who arrived in 2018, Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has said, hailing the plunge as a victory for his hardline immigration policies.

Iran Press/Europe: Landings in the first two months of 2019 were 262 -- in the same period last year there were 5,247. That is a 95 per cent drop in illegal immigration, Salvini wrote on Friday on Twitter, citing Interior Ministry figures.

This year, the number of migrants who were repatriated from Italy (1,099 deportations and 86 voluntary returns) was four times higher than the number who arrived, Salvini noted, according to a Xinhua report.

Since taking office in June, Salvini has closed the country's ports to migrant rescue vessels, vowing no more migrants will reach Italy by boat from Africa and plans to deport 500,000 illegal immigrants from Italy.

Recently, European leaders agreed to create new “centers” on European soil for housing and processing asylum seekers, and to take an array of other cooperative steps on migration policy.

The plan, still falls far short of an overall agreement to revise the EU’s asylum rules, which has bedevilled and eluded leaders since the height of the migration crisis in 2015.

Arrivals to the continent have dropped sharply since a 2015 crisis that drew sharp divisions among the bloc’s 28 members about how they should respond. Some countries promoted more open-door policies, while others set up barriers to prevent those who reached Europe from crossing their borders.

Despite a significant drop in the number of people seeking refuge in Europe, thousands of desperate migrants continue to make their way to European shores. Many make the perilous journey by sea. 101/211/202


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