A migratory avalanche challenges Italy and the EU

The president of the European Commission (EU), Ursula von der Leyen, will visit the Italian island of Lampedusawhere thousands of migrants arrived this week, a gesture that once again puts on the table the distribution of responsibilities in the EU regarding the migration issue.

Lampedusa, Italy’s southernmost island, is a common arrival point for migrants from North Africa. But this week, its reception center, built for fewer than 400 people, was overwhelmed.

Between Monday and Wednesday, some 8,500 peoplemore than the entire local population, arrived aboard 199 vessels, according to figures from the UN migration agency. Thousands of migrants were already transferred to Sicily on Friday.

Lacking space in the Lampedusa reception center, hundreds of people had to sleep on the floor, although at least they benefited from the generosity of the inhabitants, who brought them water and food. According to the Italian Red Cross, some 2,500 migrants remain in the reception centeroverwhelmed by the influx.

Von der Leyen will visit the island today at the invitation of the Italian Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, as indicated yesterday by both parties.

The migration crisis gave rise to intense diplomatic activity in the last 48 hours. A telephone meeting took place yesterday between the Ministers of the Interior of Italy, Germany and France, the Spanish presidency of the EU and the Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, indicated a French source.

The United Kingdom is evaluating using electronic ankle bracelets to prevent the escape of immigrants who arrive in the country

A spokesman for the German Interior Ministry said the conversation would continue tomorrow, and that Berlin Has offered “humanitarian support to care for people seeking protection”. This week, the German government suspended a voluntary mechanism for hosting refugees from Italy. Berlin argues that Rome is breaching its obligations under the Dublin Convention by not accepting the repatriation of migrants from German territory.

The telephone conference was proposed by the French minister, Gérald Darmanin, who will also soon travel to Lampedusa.

Darmanin’s visit was agreed upon in a telephone interview between Meloni and French President Emmanuel Macron, in which they promised “strengthen cooperation at European level to find effective, immediate and longer-term solutions,” indicated the Paris government.

“Unbearable” pressure. On Friday night, Meloni said migratory pressure in his country has become “unbearable” due to a “difficult international situation” in Africa. On Friday, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said that at the next UN assembly, he will propose that the UN should prepare some kind of intervention in Africa, where “the situation is not explosive, it has already exploded.”

Meloni asked Von der Leyen to come and see with her own eyes the situation on the ground, and asked the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, to include the migration issue on the agenda of the EU summit scheduled for October. .

In July, Von der Leyen, with the support of Meloni, had signed a agreement with Tunisia, 150 kilometers from Lampedusa, to reduce the flow of migrants, in exchange for financial aid to the North African country. The agreement, which contemplates 255 million euros in 2023 to stop irregular migration, includes measures to strengthen border controls and toughen the fight against human trafficking, as well as initiatives to attract investment to Tunisia.

The controversial pact has forced the European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, to defend this week before the European Parliament the decision taken by the EU, especially in the wake of accusations against the Tunisian government for its campaign of xenophobic violence against sub-Saharans and for the abandonment of dozens of migrants in remote areas of the desert on the border.

According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 159 thousand migrants from countries such as Guinea, Ivory Coast, Egypt and Tunisia have reached Europe across the sea in 2023 and more than 2,700 have died in the attempt. In total, more than 127 thousand irregular migrants have arrived on Italian shores since the beginning of the year, almost double compared to the same period in 2022.

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