Italy: Lampedusa faces migrant crisis as 1,200 people land there on Sunday

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A total of 1,200 migrants landed on the Italian island of Lampedusa, near the shores of Libya, on Sunday. Some of them had to be helped at sea by the Italian Coast Guard and the financial police, the ANSA agency reported.

The arrival of so many migrants at once marks a high point since the beginning of the year, and the influx of migrants arriving in Italy has already increased significantly in May. The League party, which is part of the governing coalition, is pushing Prime Minister Mario Draghi to stop the influx, which the party blames on the government dropping the hardline immigration policies of Salvini while he was serving as interior minister. When Salvini was in power, Italy experienced a dramatic reduction in migrants arriving in the country.

Nine boats and vessels, with over 1,200 people on board, arrived in Lampedusa early Sunday morning. The number of illegal migrants who landed at the Italian shores had increased significantly since May 1 when about a 1,000 people arrived in a single day. In the whole month, the number rose to about 3,000 migrants.

Before the weekend, authorities evacuated everyone in the migrant camp, which is now full again, the Rai TV station reported. The migrants are likely to remain in the facility until the quarantine ship arrives.

“Migrant arrivals have increased due to the good weather,” said Toto Martello, mayor of Lampedusa, adding that a larger number of migrants from the Libyan shores are heading to the island again.

According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, around 10,000 people arrived at the Italian shores between the beginning of the year and May 2. That is more than in 2019. Over 6,000 of them embarked in Libya and about 2,500 in Tunisia. Tunisians also formed the largest group of migrants, followed by people from the Ivory Coast and Bangladesh.

“A meeting with Prime Minister Mario Draghi is necessary because there are millions of Italians in difficulty, and we cannot think of thousands of illegal immigrants,” said  Salvini, who has consistently pointed to the massive amounts Italy is spending on migrants even as its own economy struggles with the coronavirus crisis. 

The conservative party of the Brothers of Italy continues to reiterate that the only tool to counter what it says is a mass invasion is through a naval blockade, which must be carried out immediately and in agreement with the North African authorities.

Title image: Migrants and refugees from different African nationalities react on an overcrowded rubber boat, as aid workers of the Spanish NGO Open Arms approach them in the Mediterranean Sea, international waters, off the Libyan coast, Saturday, Feb. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Pablo Tosco)

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