European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni visited Lampedusa on Sunday to see the scale of the migrant emergency.
The leaders went to Lampedusa’s migrant hotspot and the island’s Favaloro quay, where many migrant boats from North Africa land each day.
On Friday, Meloni said the surge in migrant arrivals has put Italy under “unsustainable pressure”.
Around 127,000 migrants have entered Italy so far this year, approximately twice as many as in the same period in 2022. Many of them enter via Lampedusa, Italy’s southernmost island.
There were moments of tension on Sunday when a group of local people staged a protest that blocked the way of the convoy taking Meloni and von der Leyen from the island’s airport to its migrant hotspot.
Meloni told them that “we are doing everything we can” and stressed that she had “shown up in person” to face the emergency.
Talks calmed the situation, and the locals cleared the road.
Affects the whole EU not just Italy
The migrant emergency Italy is facing could soon affect the whole EU, said Meloni.
“If anyone thought that, in the face of the current global crisis, this issue would go away, they were mistaken,” Meloni told a news conference. “With this level of (migrant) flows, if we do not all work together, the border states will be affected first and then everyone else will.
“It is a problem that involves everyone and must be tackled by everyone.
“The presence of von der Leyen (here) is a sign of awareness”.
Need to prevent departures, not deal with redistribution
“I keep saying that, faced with these (migrant) flows, we will never solve the problem by talking about redistribution,” Meloni also said.
“The only way to seriously tackle the problem is to stop illegal departures. This is what the citizens are asking us for, but so are the refugees”.
Von der Leyen presents 10-point plan
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Sunday presented a 10-point action plan to address the migrant emergency during her visit to the Italian island of Lampedusa with Premier Giorgia Meloni.
“Italy can count on the EU,” von der Leyen told a press conference.
“It is very important to be here today together with the Italian authorities. The challenge of illegal immigration is a European challenge that requires a European response”.
The 10-point plan includes a possible new EU naval mission in the Mediterranean, faster repatriations of people whose asylum claims have been rejected, and humanitarian corridors for legal arrivals.
“We will decide who arrives in Europe, not the traffickers,” von der Leyen added.