More than a thousand people have arrived in the last few hours to the Italian island of Lampedusa, where this Sunday the Italian Prime Minister, Georgia Meloni, received a visit from the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. Both have jointly presented a European response plan to the worsening of the migration crisis affecting Italy.
The humanitarian crisis in Lampedusa is a reflection of failed policies
The pressure on Lampedusa has increased this week on the Italian island after the arrival of more than 10,000 migrants in just three days. According to the Italian Red Cross, which manages the reception center at the port, there are still about 1,500 migrants waiting to be transferred in facilities that have capacity for 400.
“I have come to Lampedusa to say that illegal immigration is a European challenge and requires a European response,” declared Von der Leyen when presenting, together with Meloni, a response plan in coordination between the Italian and EU authorities. “It is very important for me to be here today“, insisted the president of the Commission, who this Sunday delayed her trip to New York, where she will participate this week in the UN General Assembly
Meloni had written a letter to the president of the Commission late on Friday, asking her to visit the island “to personally understand the seriousness of the situation.” The Italian Prime Minister has also requested that the application of the migration agreement that Brussels signed with Tunisia last July and which included macro-financial aid of more than 1 billion euros be immediately accelerated.
Cooperation plan between the Italian authorities and the EU
Both leaders have jointly presented a 10-point plan to fight against illegal immigration in the Mediterranean and have emphasized their intention to fight against human trafficking networks. The collaboration between Italy and the EU will range from a solidarity mechanism to welcome migrants arriving in Lampedusa in other European countries, updating the European law against human trafficking and defining new legal and safe humanitarian corridors.
Von der Leyen has insisted along with Meloni that the EU faces “an opportunity” to end the fight against illegal immigration and strengthen asylum options. “Immigration must be managed,” said the president, “and we can only do it together.”
“The current situation shows the cruelty of traffickers, they deceive them, keep their money and make them risk their lives,” declared Von der Leyen. “We are talking about organized crime and we can put an end to it.”
The president of the EC has assured that the European asylum agency “is ready to reinforce its actions to help Italy” and has insisted that they will reject those applications “that lack justification.” According to Von der Leyen, legal immigration routes and humanitarian corridors “are the way to break the vicious circle of illegal human trafficking networks.”
In recent days, Meloni has announced a package of measures to deter migrants who try to arrive irregularly in Italy, including extending the period of detention in the hospitals to 18 months, the maximum allowed by law. detention centers for people awaiting repatriation.
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, has also expressed his country’s solidarity to Meloni and has announced that his Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin, will travel to Italy in the coming days. According to the French presidential headquarters, Macron and Meloni agree “on the need to treat this challenge humanely and to strengthen cooperation at the European level” in order to find “immediate and longer-term effective solutions to this crisis.”
Italy asks the UN and the G20 for an international plan to contain migratory pressure
The Italian Foreign Minister and Vice President of the Government, Antonio Tajani, has asked this week that the United Nations (UN) and the G20 get involved with the European Union to address the migration problem at a global level. Tajani’s request came days before the UN General Assembly was held in New York.
“Not even Europe alone is enough to address such a huge problem, which affects not only almost all of Africa, but also the influx coming from the Balkan route. That is why we have involved the United Nations and the G20,” Tajani told the newspaper ‘Il Corriere della Sera’.
According to the head of Italian diplomacy, the Government is working on a “large international conference that must be the beginning of a true process of stabilization of the Sahel.” Tajani affirmed that the Italian Executive “does everything humanly possible,” but the “reception of irregular immigrants weighs entirely” on Italy with “enormous costs.”
The UN calls for more solidarity and coordination
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) have asked for more support and solidarity from the European Union in the face of the migratory pressure that Italy is suffering. “Coordinated search and rescue mechanisms are still necessary, but also greater European solidarity towards the countries of first arrival,” Unicef claimed in a statement issued this week.
“The situation can be addressed by resorting to a disembarkation mechanism that involves the use of larger capacity vessels that can relieve pressure on Lampedusa to remove rescued people from other disembarkation areas,” UNHCR notes. Although such measures would require the “timely support” of the European Union and “shared responsibility” with the countries of arrival.
A new rescue
Aside from the political crisis, migrants have continued to arrive in Lampedusa, although in smaller numbers than in previous days. This Saturday, the coast guard attended to a woman who gave birth to her child while she was trying to cross the Mediterranean at night on a barge with forty other people. When the rescue arrived, the coast guard found the newborn dead and his mother needed medical assistance.
The baby’s body was placed in a small coffin and immediately transferred to the Lampedusa cemetery, according to the rescue teams, while the mother, who was assisted by the rest of the passengers on the barge as soon as she began to feel contractions, was transferred to a medical center.
The Italian Red Cross, which manages the first reception center on the island, has assured that its volunteers “continue to incessantly guarantee the basic needs” of migrants, despite the fact that its facilities have a capacity for 400.
The Geo Barents ship, from the NGO Doctors Without Borders (MSF), also rescued this Saturday more than 330 migrants who were trying to cross the central Mediterranean. The humanitarian ship has completed up to eight rescue operations in a single day and is in contact with the Italian authorities to carry out rescue operations, as indicated by the organization in a statement.
So far this year, 127,207 immigrants have landed in Italy, almost double that of the 66,237 of the same period in 2022 and triple that of 2021 (42,750), according to data from the Ministry of the Interior updated this Saturday.