Newsdeck

Migrant crisis

Italy’s Lampedusa ‘in crisis’ with thousands of migrant arrivals

Italy’s Lampedusa ‘in crisis’ with thousands of migrant arrivals
A group of migrants wait on the island of Lampedusa as Italian authorities prepare for transferring people following new arrivals, Italy, 13 September 2023. More than 6,790 migrants were on the Italian island on 13 September after a record arrival of 6,402 people in two days. The Prefecture of Agrigento has arranged for a ferry to pick up around 700 people from Lampedusa to Porto Empedocle, while another 180 being transferred by an IOM flight. EPA-EFE/CONCETTA RIZZO

LAMPEDUSA, Italy, Sept 14 (Reuters) - The small Italian island of Lampedusa is being overwhelmed by the number of migrants arriving on its shores, its mayor said on Thursday, after thousands of people landed from North Africa on flimsy boats over the past two days.

Lampedusa sits in the Mediterranean between Tunisia, Malta and the larger Italian island of Sicily and is a first port of call for many migrants seeking to reach the European Union.

“In the past 48 hours, around 7,000 people have arrived in Lampedusa, which has always welcomed them with open arms,” mayor Filippo Mannino told Italy’s RTL 102.5 radio.

“However, we have now reached a point of no return and the island is in crisis,” he said.

“Europe and the Italian state must step in immediately with a rapid support operation and swift transfer of people.”

The island normally has a population of just over 6,000.

The arrivals are a headache for Giorgia Meloni’s right-wing government which took power last October with a promise to crack down on immigration.

Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini decried a lack of support from fellow EU members, calling the arrivals “an act of war” and “a symbol of a socialist Europe”.

Meloni said at a conference in Budapest that some legal migration could benefit Europe economically, but could not be a solution to the continent’s demographic crisis.

In Brussels, the European Commission said it was in touch with the Italian government to discuss the possibility of offering more help for Lampedusa.

“We stand ready to support Italy and this is what we are doing,” a Commission spokesperson said.

 

BAKING SUN

Some migrants on the quayside in Lampedusa placed towels over their heads to shield themselves from the late summer sun as they waited to be transferred to Sicily by ferry.

Lampedusa has a migrant reception centre with an official capacity of only 400.

Preliminary data from Spain, another country on the EU’s southern flank, showed the number of migrant arrivals to the Canary Islands more than trebled to 2,891 people in the first two weeks of September.

Spain says instability in Senegal is one of the factors fuelling the increase.

Matteo Villa, a migration data analysis expert from the ISPI think tank in Milan, told Reuters migrant arrivals to Italy this year are close to the record registered in 2016, when more than 180,000 people came.

He said Lampedusa was under particular pressure because 90% of migrant boats in the last three months came from Tunisia, the closest African country, and because there are fewer search and rescue missions intercepting migrants at sea.

Meloni’s government has restricted the activities of charity rescue boats, impounding their vesselsbanning them from conducting multiple rescues and making them travel longer distances to disembark migrants.

Italy has sought to improve ties with Tunisia and in July Tunis and the European Union signed a pact aimed at stemming migrant flows but that has had no immediate impact.

Since the start of the year, almost 124,000 sea migrants have landed on Italian shores, almost double the number recorded in the same period in 2022.

By Yara Nardi

(Additional reporting by Gavin Jones and Alvise Armellini in Rome, Federico Maccioni in Milan and Corina Pons in Madrid, Writing by Keith Weir; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Julian Chandler says:

    They really just need to deny the ships access to port. Once that tap opens, you’ll never be able to close it again.
    Funny how the people that burn flags, and tout how evil the west is, suddenly want refuge there.

  • Steven D says:

    Send them back! That is the only way this mindset of “I can just go to Europe where I HAVE to be accepted” will change.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

We would like our readers to start paying for Daily Maverick...

…but we are not going to force you to. Over 10 million users come to us each month for the news. We have not put it behind a paywall because the truth should not be a luxury.

Instead we ask our readers who can afford to contribute, even a small amount each month, to do so.

If you appreciate it and want to see us keep going then please consider contributing whatever you can.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options