The island of Lampedusa is at the forefront of migrant arrivals in Italy. From Tuesday, a flotilla of dangerously flimsy boats delayed by bad weather in Tunisia arrived in a 24-hour period. The total number of migrants in that period was around 6,800.
The number of migrant arrivals is becoming a political embarrassment for PM Giorgia Meloni, as well as a humanitarian crisis. Meloni came to power on the back of promises to handle the illegal migrant issue.
As well as the sheer volume of migrants, more pressure is on Italy after Germany suspended a voluntary agreement to take in migrants. Germany accused Rome of not meeting its obligations under the EU’s Dublin rules on asylum.
How is the Lampedusa migrant problem being handled?
A flotilla of flimsy boats, crowded with migrants and launched from Tunisia, overwhelmed a tiny southern Italian island on Wednesday. The Coast Guard is stretched and its capability to intercept the smugglers’ vessels tested.
Starting early on Tuesday, the iron boats seemed to arrive in a procession. Some 6,800 migrants came in a span of just over 24 hours. That is more than the island’s full-time population.
According to Italian authorities, the surge in numbers was due to rough seas preventing smugglers launching their boats.
The island’s migrant residence only has capacity of around 450 beds. Authorities are working to transfer migrants to Sicily and Calabria via commercial ferries or coast guard ships.
Francesca Basile, a spokeswoman for the Italian Red Cross on Lampedusa, said they were making a “huge effort” to provide “basic services” for the 4,200 migrants still at the centre on Lampedusa.
Over 120,000 arrivals by sea this year
According to Italy’s Interior Ministry, nearly 126,000 migrants reached Italy by sea this year as of Thursday morning. This is almost double the number as the same time last year.
On Thursday, another 180 migrants rescued at sea were brought to the port city of Salerno, south of Naples.