Italy is struggling to control its borders after a record number of illegal immigrants arrived on its southern shores over the past few days.
Figures released by the country’s interior ministry revealed a total of 6,564 migrants have landed in Italy since Thursday, with 2,814 — a record number for a single day — recorded on March 24, and the rate of arrivals shows no sign of slowing down.
At least 29 migrants died over the weekend after two boats sank off Tunisia’s coast within hours of each other.
Cracks in Italy’s right-wing coalition grow after Berlusconi slams Meloni for meeting Zelensky
The three leaders of Italy’s coalition partners hold vastly differing views on how best to tackle the war in Ukraine. Do these views complement each other, or are cracks in the right-wing alliance starting to show?
Almost 27,000 migrants have now arrived by small boats into the country so far this year, a figure that is more than four times that for the same period last year, despite efforts by Giorgia Meloni’s conservative government to stem the flow. Some have accused Meloni of not doing enough to halt migrants, and there is reportedly friction between her and her coalition partner, League party leader Matteo Salvini, who wants to introduce stricter border policies, such as those seen when he was previously interior minister in 2019.
The Italian government has cracked down on the assistance humanitarian rescue ships run by NGOs can offer in the Mediterranean, limiting them to making one rescue at a time before returning to port. Failure to do so can result in jail time for the captain and a heavy fine. The reasoning comes from a recent report published by Italy’s intelligence services that claims NGO boats are doing more harm than good, as they are providing a pull factor for prospective small boat migrants who know they only need to travel half the distance to Europe before seeking assistance and being taxied to shore.
Italian Chamber of Deputies approves Meloni decree to restrict activity of migrant rescue boats in the Mediterranean
NGO vessels must return to Italian ports “without delay” after a rescue, rather than remaining at sea and enticing more migrant boats to head for Italy
The crew of one such vessel, the French-owned MV Louise Michel, was detained by authorities over the weekend after reportedly breaking the new rules.
City mayors are now calling on the government to provide extra funding, as local authorities struggle to cater for the vast number of new arrivals. Prato Matteo Biffoni recently told the Italian Il Giornale newspaper the government must set aside up to €1 billion extra for local authorities.
“I say that to manage the current situation, the municipal system would need additional resources quantifiable between €500 and 600 million, which can even go beyond €1 billion euros in the event that the picture of arrivals should further deteriorate,” Biffoni told reporters.
“If we continue at this pace, by the end of the year, we will count 200,000 migrants to take care of,” he added.
Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni urged EU leaders to work with Italy in handling the crisis unfolding on its southern border during an EU summit in Brussels last week.
“If we do not adequately address those problems we risk unleashing an unprecedented wave of migration,” she told reporters on Friday.