overwhelmed with the arrival of 7,000 migrants in 48 hours

overwhelmed with the arrival of 7,000 migrants in 48 hours
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The police and medical teams present at the Favaloro dock, the only entry point for migrant boats arriving towards Lampedusa, usually work like clockwork. When one of the boats arrives, escorted by a patrol boat, or a coast guard boat after carrying out a rescue, they get to work so that in a few minutes they identify the vulnerable and they are all transferred to the reception center on the island in some Red Cross buses, with the aim of transporting them as soon as possible to other places in Italy by boat or plane.

This first reception system can work when arrival rates, even high, are stable, with even up to 1,000 people disembarking each day during the difficult summer days, the most critical period because good sea conditions favor crossings from Tunisia. and Libya. But in recent days, massive arrivals have saturated both the Favaloro pier and the island's reception center. According to the mayor of Lampedusa, Filippo Mannino, in 48 hours more than 7,000 people landed on the island, overflowing the small center, which has a capacity for just 400. “We are at a point of no return and the island is in crisis. “Europe and the Italian State must act immediately with a support operation and a rapid transfer of people,” he pleaded, before the Italian media.

Some migrants escaping from the reception center this Thursday on the Italian island of Lampedusa (YARA NARDI/Reuters)

Italy asks the UN and the G-20 to get involved with the EU to address the migration problem

The images coming from the island are worrying. There were so many boats waiting in line to disembark at the port of Lampedusa. Tensions and struggles with the police have also been seen both at the dock, where nervousness grew after long hours of waiting under the sun demanding accommodation; as in the reception center, where there were crowds and fights during the distribution of food due to the shortage of supplies. The situation is so critical that thousands of people had to stand before the Red Cross workers, who have been managing it for a few months, completely overwhelmed. Normally conditions in this center are already very precarious, but this level of tension is unusual. So much so that some of the migrants, who normally only see the pier and the reception center in Lampedusa, escaped by jumping the fences in search of something to eat among the tourists in this holiday destination.

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Anna Buj

Members of Open Arms rescue one of the drifting boats

With this panorama, the Lampedusa City Council has proclaimed a state of emergency to demand help from the Government of Giorgia Meloni, the leader of the Brothers of Italy who came to power promising a tough line against immigration but who has seen how the landings have grown exponentially. radical during this last year. According to data from the Ministry of the Interior, as of September 13, more than 123,000 people had landed in Italy, almost double the more than 65,500 during the same period in 2022. “We have demanded what we have been asking for for months, which is protect the island with ships, help and support for an island that in recent months has been under great stress," said the mayor.

Arrivals saturate the reception system and the City Council decrees a state of emergency

The Executive is trying to accelerate the transfers, and yesterday the situation began to be under control, but the reception center was still well above its capacity. The Italian Minister of the Interior, Matteo Piantedosi, asked the EU to mediate to boost repatriations from Tunisia in a conversation with the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson; while the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister, Antonio Tajani, has demanded that the UN and the G-20 get involved with Europe to address the migration problem at a global level. The other deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, went further by calling the mass arrival of migrants an “act of war” and has promised that Italy will defend its borders.

The issue is creating serious problems for a government formed by parties that for years criticized the policies of the Italian left for being too permissive towards immigrants. Located about 150 kilometers from the coast of Tunisia, Lampedusa is experiencing more pressure due to the instability in this country, where the vast majority of migrant boats landed in recent months come from and which has already surpassed Libya as a place of departure. Italy pushed for a European agreement in July with Tunisia that promised economic support in exchange for containing outflows, but so far it has had no effect.

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