Bad weather provided a brief pause in the constant arrival of thousands of migrants to the Italian southern island of Lampedusa, where the overcrowded reception center reached a minimum attendance on Friday, APA reports citing Anadolu.
However, the Italian government still lacks a long-term plan to handle the migration emergency that reached a new peak last week, pushing Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni to invite EU Commission head Ursula von der Leyen to visit the struggling island and call for EU action.
Red Cross officials said another 400 migrants left Lampedusa’s reception center on Friday, bringing the total number of people hosted there down to 300.
Last week, the center was overwhelmed following a few days of record arrivals, with about 7,000 migrants crowding the tiny structure – about the same number of the island’s residents. For years, the Sicilian island of Lampedusa has been the first port of call for people crossing a dangerous and often deadly stretch of the Mediterranean Sea from Northern Africa.
“The situation is currently less critical and we hope it will continue to be like this in the coming days,” said Ignazio Schintu, deputy secretary general of the Italian Red Cross, at a news conference in Lampedusa.
The Red Cross plans new migrants’ departures on Saturday to further reduce the number of presences at the center, bringing it close to zero.
The Italian government has recently approved tougher rules to crack down on irregular migration after the record wave of arrivals setting off from Tunisia brought the issue to center stage in Europe. Meloni visited the island on Sunday with von der Leyen, who supported the hardline position pushed by the Italian right-wing government.
“We will decide who comes to the European Union, and under what circumstances. Not the smugglers,” von der Leyen said.
Italy’s new measures focus on migrants who do not qualify for asylum and are slated to be repatriated to their home countries. The government extended the amount of time such people can be detained to a maximum of 18 months.
Rome also plans to increase the number of detention centers, since capacity has always been insufficient and many of those scheduled to be returned home manage to head further north.
On Thursday, Meloni told the UN General Assembly in New York that the huge numbers arriving in Lampedusa had placed Italy “under incredible pressure.”
The number of migrants landed in Italy so far this year has reached over 127,000 – more than double that of the same period in 2022. The majority have set off from Tunisia, where in July, Meloni and Von der Leyen signed a controversial deal to stem irregular migration.