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Rome, Sep 15 (IANS/AKI) A total of 100,325 migrants have arrived in Italy by sea this year till September 13 - around 23 per cent fewer than over the same period last year, the United Nations migration agency reported on Friday.
The biggest group of boat migrants were Nigerians (16,622) followed by Guineans (8,857) and Bangladeshis (8,747), according to the International Organisation for Migration, which cited Italian government data.
Overall arrivals to Europe by sea as of September 13 were 128,863, less than half the 298,663 who landed over the same period of 2016, IOM reported.
The sharp drop in migrant arrivals comes as Italy has led the European Union's efforts to curb sea crossings from Libya, supplying funds, equipment and training for Libya's border and coast guard, and striking deals with local groups in control on the ground in the largely lawless countries, as well as with the neighbouring transit countries of Niger, Chad and Mali.
The IOM has already overseen the voluntary returns of more than 7,000 migrants to their home countries, a figure that will rise to 15,000-20,000 by the end of this year, Italy's Interior Ministry said on Friday.
A further 1,000 migrants interviewed by UN officials in detention centres in Libya have been granted international protection and may soon be relocated to countries in Europe and elsewhere, the Italian interior ministry said.
At a meeting in Rome on Friday an Italian-Libyan committee chaired by Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti, it was also agreed to create a "logistical base" for border guards on Libya's southern flank, the ministry said.
The Italian project, funded by the EU, will also aim to facilitate the presence of UN organizations in the area, according to the ministry.
The Italian-Libyan committee is tasked with implementing a memorandum signed by the two countries on February 2.
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