ROME, Italy: Tommaso Foti, the lower parliamentary house whip for Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's far-right party, the Brothers of Italy Party, has said that Italian intelligence reports showed that some 700,000 migrants are in Libya waiting to set out by sea towards Italy.
However, Flavio Di Giacomo, spokesperson for the United Nations International Organization for Migration, said that number is not accurate.
In an interview with television channel Tgcom24, Foti said that the Italian secret services estimated that 685,000 migrants in Libya, with many being held in detention camps and keen to sail across the central Mediterranean Sea in smugglers' boats.
In a meeting later this month, Meloni is hoping for more support from other leaders of European Union member states in managing the large numbers of migrants and asylum-seekers crossing the Mediterranean to European countries such as Greece, Cyprus, Malta, Spain and Italy.
"Europe cannot look the other way, Foti said, as reported by the Associated Press.
In response, Di Giacomo told The Associated Press in Rome that the figure given by Italy was confusing the high end of the estimated total number of migrants in Libya with those who were actually planning to travel to Europe.
"This number seems to be an estimate, that we also give the total presence in Libya. The Italian intelligence service's estimate is the last of a long series of alarms that we have seen in the last 10, 12 years, that turned out to be mistaken," he said.
In 2022, some 105,000 migrants reached Italy by sea, and from the start of this year through 10th March, some 17,600 arrived, including a few thousand who disembarked at Italian ports over the past several days.
Italy has, for many years, unsuccessfully encouraged Libya to prevent smugglers from sending migrants on unseaworthy fishing boats and rubber dinghies toward the Italian coastline.
However, the smuggling gangs that traffic migrants continue to operate due to Libyan political instability.