The situation on the Italian island of Lampedusa is coming to a head, with the local government declaring a state of emergency after more than 6,000 illegal migrants were registered on the small Italian Mediterranean island on Tuesday.
Besides an influx of hundreds of boats sailing toward Italy’s harbors, scenes of violence were recorded, with migrants trying to break through police lines.
“Apocalypse on Lampedusa. Italian police are trying to keep illegal African migrants in check. Meanwhile, 160 boats have arrived with 8,000 illegals: just young, strong men who are migrating into our social systems,” wrote former Alternative for Germany (AfD) politician Georg Pazderski on X.
Mayor Filippo Mannino has responded by declaring a state of emergency on Wednesday evening, as reported by the Ansa news agency. He demanded more support for the small island, which he said is under “great stress.” Officially, the number of migrants on the island now outnumbers the actual residents.
“Everyone has helped in some way the migrants who needed help. But now it’s really time to look for a structural solution,” Mannino said. However, it is unclear what the state of emergency will actually achieve without concrete support from the ruling conservatives in Italy, who already declared a nationwide emergency in April as migration numbers soared via the Mediterranean route.
The island, which lies between Sicily and North Africa, has been a major center for migration for years. On Wednesday afternoon, hundreds of migrants tried to break through barriers, according to media reports and video posted to social media. A police spokesperson refused to comment on the chaos on the island.
Despite talk of solidarity on the issue of migration, there is growing tension between the left-wing German government and Italy’s conservative-led government, with Germany suspending the voluntary admission of illegal migrants from Italy.
Germany, which is dealing with its own immigration crisis, had pledged to take in 3,500 migrants from burdened countries in Southern Europe such as Italy. So far, 1,700 have been transferred to Germany, including 1,043 from Italy, but now Germany argues that Italy is refusing to accept over 10,000 migrants that Germany wants to return under “Dublin rules,” which stipulate that asylum requests have to be handled in the country where a migrant first claims asylum.
Already in May of this year, Remix News reported that migrant numbers had jumped 300 percent compared to last year. Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has remained under fire for failing to stem the crisis after promising a “naval blockade” during her campaign.
A total of 101,386 migrants landed on Italian islands or the mainland between Jan. 1 and Aug. 16, more than double the 48,000 who arrived in the same period last year, and almost triple the 34,556 landings recorded in 2021.
In the vast majority of cases, migrants who land in Italy seek to move farther north to countries like Germany and Austria.