On August 9th, 2019 the German far-right party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) stated the following on Facebook: “The latest figures from the United Nations show that by now one in three immigrants and asylum seekers does not reach Italy via Lampedusa or Sicily, but rather comfortably on a yacht on the eastern route.” It is true that yachts are used for oversea journeys by smugglers, but in short the claimed statistics are false.
The false AfD-claim refers to an article on the web portal of the German newscast Tagesschau. The AfD quoted Tagesschau wrongly: while the Tagesschau reported that every third immigrant and asylum seeker had arrived in Italy via the eastern route according to UNHCR , the refugee agency of the United Nations, it did not claim that every third had arrived on a yacht. Although the Tagesschau-article addresses the issue that refugees would indeed arrive on yachts, it did not provide data on the amount of arrivals on yachts. The reason: the data is not gathered by any organization as our research shows.
The UNHCR defines the eastern oversea route by boats departing from Greece and Turkey and arriving in Italy (mostly in the states Apulia, Calabria and Basilicata). Almost one third took this route in the first seven months of 2019. Therefore, the quote by Tagesschau is true, which this factsheet by UNHCR proves. To be precise: exactly 31.39 percent of all overseas arrivals used this route. If the AfD-claim would be true, all of them would have had to use yachts.
It is however true that yachts are used by smugglers for overseas transport. Yet, a speaker of UNHCR stresses that this phenomenon is not new. Although the journey would be less dangerous than on rubber dinghies, it is still “often desperate and dangerous” and not “rather comfortably” as the AfD post also states.
Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, could not provide us with data on the types of boats arriving as many of them are not even tracked. Although Frontex categorizes arrivals by boat types (like motor and sailing boats), they do not have an extra category for yachts. In short, the AfD-claim is false.
The AfD did not react to our query asking about their source as of November 22th, 2019.