Italy blames Russia’s Wagner group for surge in migration

Story by dw.com • Yesterday 9:09 PM

More than 20,000 people have reached Italy’s shores this year and the government says the influx is deliberate. It now wants NATO’s help.

More than tripple the number of migrants reached Italy in January this year, far more than during the two previous years, when the figure was around 6,000© Concetta Rizzo/ANSA/picture alliance

Italian Defense Minister Guido Crosetto said on Monday that the rising number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean is part of “hybrid warfare” waged by Russia using mercenaries as proxies on countries supporting Ukraine.

“I think it is now safe to say that the exponential increase in the migratory phenomenon departing from African shores is also, to a not insignificant extent, part of a clear strategy of hybrid warfare that the Wagner division is implementing, using its considerable weight in some African countries,” Crosetto said in a statement.

Wagner is believed to be operating in several African countries, including Libya, Mali, and the Central African Republic. The group has been heavily involved in Russian efforts to capture the city of Bakhmut, in eastern Ukraine.

“Just as the EU, NATO and the West have realised that cyber attacks were part of the global confrontation that the war in Ukraine opened up, they should now understand that the southern European front is also becoming more dangerous every day,” Crosetto said.

Increase in people arriving from Africa

Some 20,000 people have reached Italy so far this year, compared to 6,100 in the same period of 2022, Italian interior ministry figures show.

In the past weekend alone 1,200 people reached Italian shores.

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