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

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

After the arrival of thousands of migrants, Lampedusa is overloaded. Italy’s head of government demands answers from the EU. It calls for a common mission. Important visitors from Brussels are now expected on the small island.

After the arrival of several thousand boat migrants, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited the small Mediterranean island of Lampedusa on Sunday. She is accompanied by Italy’s right-wing Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. She invited von der Leyen to Lampedusa “to make herself personally aware of the seriousness of the situation we find ourselves in,” said Meloni. She calls for a European mission to stop migrant boats heading to Europe. If necessary, the navy must be deployed, she said in a video message. Such a mission must start “immediately”.

Since the beginning of the week, 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 small 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. In view of the situation, the city council declared a state of emergency. “The migratory pressure that Italy has been experiencing since the beginning of this year is unsustainable,” said Meloni. The head of government is therefore insisting on EU intervention.

Just two months ago, she and von der Leyen were in Tunisia together to negotiate a deal with the North African country. As one of the most important transit countries for migrants on their way to Europe, Tunisia should take greater action against smugglers and illegal crossings in return for millions in financial aid. The aim is to reduce the number of people traveling across the Mediterranean. The planned agreement also attracted criticism because of the situation of migrants in Tunisia.

Lampedusa is currently recording record arrival numbers. Meloni is therefore under domestic political pressure and is urgently looking for solutions. She therefore also asked the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, to put the migration issue on the agenda of the EU summit in October. According to Meloni’s idea, people in North Africa should be stopped from leaving the sea.

Consultations with other countries

In view of the situation in Lampedusa, Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) held a telephone conference 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. The desire to “address the migration problem concretely and operationally” was also expressed.

French President Emmanuel Macron reiterated France’s solidarity with Italy in view of the situation in Lampedusa in a telephone conversation with Meloni. As the Elysée Palace said, both emphasized the need for a humanitarian approach and increased cooperation at EU level. France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin will travel to Italy for consultations in the next few days.

Source: Stern

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