Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi today thanked European Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson for visiting Lampedusa. She saw first-hand the difficulties Italy is experiencing in handling the arrival of large numbers of migrants by sea.
Lampedusa is an island which is Italy’s southern-most border. It is often the first destination for migrants and refugees seeking a new life in Europe.
But the dangerous nature of the crossing from North Africa and the unscrupulousness of the human traffickers mean countless migrants die at sea each year.
Furthermore, there has been a big increase in the already large number of migrant boats arriving on Lampedusa since the start of the year. The frequency of the landings is putting the island’s migrant hotspot under intense pressure.
“I want to thank Ylva Johansson,” Piantedosi said. “It is the first time that a European commissioner has come to Lampedusa. We see it as a sign of Europe’s closeness to the problems of Italy, Lampeduca and the countries where the migrants arrive first.
“Ylva Johansson’s concrete presence was preceded by concrete acts and it will be followed by others that the European Commission is preparing to support Italy with this delicate task of being the country of first entry”.
You are not alone
Johansson said her message to the people of Lampedusa is that they are not alone. “It is necessary to say one thing,” Johansson told a press conference with Piantedosi and Lampedusa Mayor Filippo Manni. “This is not just an Italian challenge, it is also a European one. You are not alone”.
Some 565 migrants and refugees arrived on Lampedusa on Friday in a total of 15 separate landings since midnight.
The last three boats to arrive accompanied by finance police and coast guard patrol boats carried respectively 42, 27 and 48 people and had departed from Mahdia and Sfax in Tunisia.
In one landing early on Friday, two new arrivals said the boat they had been travelling on sank and they had been rescued by another boat carrying 29 people. The latter boat was subsequently intercepted by a finance police vessel and escorted to port.
The two survivors, in a state of shock, said some of their initial travelling companions had been rescued by a Tunisian vessel, while others were missing at sea. However, they were not able to give details.
Detention Centres near borders
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi said Friday he had met with Justice Minister Carlo Nordio with the aim of “making the system of deportation of irregular migrants more effective”.
He told ‘Oggi è un altro giorno’ on Rai 1 that the idea – in application of the recent clamp-down on irregular migration introduced after the February 26 Cutro shipwreck – is to “create detention centres in the places closest to the border for the assessment of the existence of the prerequisites for recognition of refugee status” for people coming from so-called safe countries such as Ivory Coast and Tunisia and to hold those “destined for deportation, while still ensuring respect for all the rights of the person”.
The detention centres are to be located in Sicily and Calabria, including at existing hotspots including, possibly, Lampedusa. On Friday, over 3,000 migrants and refugees landed on the island, against an official capacity of 400.
64,930 migrants and refugees have arrived in Italy by sea so far this year according to interior ministry figures.
This compares to 27,633 arrivals in the same period in 2022 and to 20,532 in 2021.