Italy: Meloni wants to stop migrants with EU mission – von der Leyen visits Lampedusa

Italy: Meloni wants to stop migrants with EU mission – von der Leyen visits Lampedusa

Italy’s Prime Minister Meloni is insisting on EU intervention to stop migrants crossing the Mediterranean – if necessary with the use of the navy. She is likely to make her demands known during a visit from Brussels to the congested island of Lampedusa.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wants to travel to Italy this Saturday after the arrival of thousands of migrants on the small Mediterranean island of Lampedusa. Previously, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni had called for a European mission to stop migrant boats heading to Europe. If necessary, the navy must be deployed, said the right-wing politician in a video message on Friday evening. According to Meloni’s idea, people in North Africa should be stopped from leaving the sea. Such a mission must start “immediately”.

Since Monday, several thousand boat migrants have reached the small island between Sicily and North Africa. More than 5,000 people arrived on Tuesday alone – more than ever before on a single day. At times the initial reception center was extremely overcrowded with around 6,800 people. Because of its proximity to the Tunisian coastal city of Sfax, Lampedusa has been one of the hotspots of migration to Europe for years. The island’s city council declared a state of emergency on Wednesday in view of the tense situation.

Von der Leyen is traveling to Italy on Saturday

Meloni invited von der Leyen to Lampedusa “to make himself personally aware of the seriousness of the situation in which we find ourselves.” On Saturday, a spokesman for von der Leyen told the German Press Agency on the sidelines of an event in Hanau that the head of the Commission would first travel to Rome on Saturday and later to Lampedusa with Meloni. A short time later, another commission spokesman announced via platform X that the trip to the island was planned for Sunday.

Meloni sees the EU as having a duty to support Italy. She therefore asked the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, to put the migration issue on the agenda of the EU summit in October. The head of government emphasized the importance of the planned agreement with Tunisia. According to them, the agreed financial resources must be transferred as quickly as possible in order to accelerate the deal.

Tunisia is one of the most important transit countries for migrants on their way to Europe. The EU Commission is currently planning a migration agreement with the North African country. In return for financial aid worth millions, Tunisia should take greater action against smugglers and illegal crossings in order to reduce the number of people leaving for Europe.

Meloni wants to take “extraordinary measures” to stop migrants

Meloni said the Mediterranean country and Europe could not accommodate the enormous number of people. “The migration pressure that Italy has been experiencing since the beginning of this year is unsustainable,” said the right-wing politician. She intends to take “extraordinary measures”. The maximum length of detention in deportation detention centers should be increased. Meloni announced that the measures should be decided in a cabinet meeting on Monday.

Italy has been ruled by a right-wing alliance since October 2022. The ultra-right Meloni promised to restrict migration. So far she has not been able to fulfill her election promise. According to figures from the Interior Ministry in Rome, more migrants have come to Italy by sea since the beginning of the year than in the whole of 2022. By September 15th there were around 127,200 people (as of September 15th) – around 66,200 in the same period last year.

In view of the situation on Lampedusa, Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser consulted with her French counterpart Gérald Darmanin. Further discussions with EU counterparts and the Commission should follow, the Federal Ministry of the Interior said on Saturday. Germany is sticking to its decision not to accept any more migrants from Italy through the voluntary solidarity mechanism for the time being. A spokesman said there were currently no interviews taking place to prepare for further takeovers from Italy. There are still some migrants who have already gone through the process and are being accepted. Interviews to prepare for takeovers could be resumed “at any time.”

Source: Stern

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