Migration: Von der Leyen visits Lampedusa: Arrival of thousands of migrants

Migration: Von der Leyen visits Lampedusa: Arrival of thousands of migrants

Several thousand boat migrants are keeping the congested Mediterranean island of Lampedusa in suspense. Italy’s head of government is insisting on EU intervention to stop migrants on their way to Europe.

After the arrival of thousands of migrants on Lampedusa, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced a short-term visit to the small Mediterranean island. Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni now sees the EU as having a duty to support the Mediterranean country.

For example, she called for a European mission to stop migrant boats on their way to Europe. If necessary, the navy must be deployed, said the right-wing politician in a video message. According to their idea, people in North Africa should be prevented from setting off. Such an operation must start “immediately”.

Several thousand boat migrants have arrived on the small island between Sicily and North Africa since the beginning of the week. After a period in which relatively fewer migrants landed on the island, the good weather seems to have caused so many boats to set off at once. 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 city council declared a state of emergency because of the situation.

Invitation from Meloni

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

Meanwhile, several hundred people reached Lampedusa again. More than 800 people arrived on more than a dozen boats by the afternoon, the Italian news agency Ansa reported. According to Italian media reports, a baby who was born during the crossing died on one of the boats. The mother went into labor on the boat. With the help of other fellow travelers, she gave birth to the baby. According to reports, the infant died shortly after birth.

In view of the situation in Lampedusa, Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) consulted with her counterparts from Italy, France and Spain on Saturday afternoon. However, the telephone conference, in which EU Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson also took part, did not produce any concrete results, a spokesman for the Federal Ministry of the Interior said upon request. Faeser emphasized “that Germany has always shown solidarity and will continue to do so.” She also offered Germany humanitarian support. According to the statement, Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi called for a “new operational strategy” aimed at taking concrete initiatives to stop the crossings.

Meloni wants to speed up deal with Tunisia

According to Meloni, the EU must support her country. 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 millions of dollars in financial aid from the EU, Tunisia should take greater action against smugglers and illegal crossings in order to reduce the number of people leaving for Europe.

Meloni said her 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”. 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.

Source: Stern

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