Southern EU countries unable to cope with migrant influx, ask Brussels for help

Italy mulls closing a deal with Libya

editor: REMIX NEWS
author: Jiří Sládek

Thousands of migrants from North Africa are heading to Italy, and Southern European countries do not have enough capacity to handle the crisis, leading them to plea for help from the European Union. 

Despite the dire situation, the solidarity of the member states on the topic of immigration continues to weaken. Now, Rome is looking for an arrangement similar to the agreement with Turkey, which will involve paying off the Libyan government to keep migrants from reaching Europe.

These days, thousands of immigrants are arriving at the Italian shores, and the situation in the Mediterranean is becoming serious. For example, 2,100 refugees from Africa arrived on the island of Lampedusa in a single day. The capacity of the local reception center is only 200 beds. Immigrants arriving from Libya and North Africa live in unsatisfactory conditions on an old ferry.

The International Organization for Migration warns that the journey on unsteady boats is very dangerous.

With the weather improving, another influx of migrants can be expected. This year they, three times more people than in the same period last year have already arrived in Italy. The coalition government in Rome is therefore working hard to find a solution to the crisis. The immediate usual solution would be to transport hundreds of migrants to nearby Sicily. But what next?

Some politicians, such as the chairman of the League party, Matteo Salvini, are calling for a tighter migration policy. While at the head of the Ministry of the Interior, Salvini made sure that Italy would prevent humanitarian vessels from using the country’s ports, but Salvini lost power and the migrant influx resumed.

On the other hand, the parties of today’s center-left coalition have always opposed such an approach and have in many ways promoted an open borders policy. Prime Minister Mario Draghi is therefore seeking help from the EU.

Italian Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese spoke with EU’s Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson, who called on the EU-27 to accept some of the migrants.

“I think it is possible to handle it,” Johansson said in what appears to be a tweak of the famed statement from Angela Merkel in response to the 2016 migrant crisis: “Wiir schaffen das”, which translate in English to, “We can do it”.

Filippo Grandi, head of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, also said that the EU should stop “haggling” about migrants and accept some of them.

“Through a reasonable and agreed mechanism, this is, in my opinion, perfectly manageable,” he said.

But times have changed a lot since the height of the migration crisis six years ago. The will to participate in humanitarian gestures in many European countries has waned. An example is Sweden, which used to receive record numbers of refugees. But when European countries distributed migrants from the Greek islands last year, Sweden did not join the initiative. Even France, which deals with high crime rates in the urban periphery, is carefully guarding the border with Italy.

The government in Rome is therefore becoming interested in another solution. According to La Repubblica, the EU wants to propose an agreement with Libya based on a similar scheme to the deal with Turkey. Libya would receive financial assistance from Brussels, for which it would take care of migrants on its territory.

Title image: Migrants wake up after spending the night outside a migrant housing center, which had been empty until Sunday but which rapidly surpassed its 200-plus capacity, on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, southern Italy, early Tuesday, May 11, 2021. This year’s arrivals have already topped by far the number of migrants arriving via sea in the same period in each of the past two years, swelling to past 2,100 on Monday in around 24 hours. (AP Photo/Salvatore Cavalli)


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