“The future of Europe is at stake here,” says Giorgia Meloni in Lampedusa

For a few days, thousands of migrants who left the North African coast land on the Italian island of Lampedusa. The United Nations migration agency counted around 8,500 people, more than the entire population of Lampedusa, arriving on 199 boats. Faced with this migration crisis, Giorgia Meloni, the Italian Prime Minister and Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission arrived on site this Sunday morning. They went to the port where dozens of makeshift boats are moored on which candidates for exile embark, most often departing from Tunisia.

This situation, which has relaunched the debate on the sharing of responsibilities within the European Union, also causes tensions among the island’s inhabitants. Residents unhappy with these mive arrivals greeted the officials at the airport, threatening to block their procession.

“We are doing everything we can,” Giorgia Meloni told them, adding: “As usual, I take personal responsibility.” The two leaders are expected to make a statement to the press late this morning. “The future of Europe is at stake here,” said the Italian Prime Minister.

Irregular immigration needs a “European response”, launched Ursula Von der Leyen, calling on other EU countries to welcome some of the migrants arriving in Italy.

A system on the verge of asphyxiation

In the meantime, the Italian Red Cross (CRI) which manages the “hot spot” (reception center) of Lampedusa indicated on Sunday that 1,500 migrants were still there, for a capacity of 400 people, their transfer to the Sicily and the continent not completely compensating for new arrivals. “Other transfers are planned during the day,” said the CRI. Large NGO ships, such as the Geo Barrents of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) which rescued nearly 500 migrants in 11 operations, are directed to major Italian ports. But dozens of small boats continue their crossing of the Mediterranean and arrive directly in Lampedusa where the migrant management system has found itself on the verge of asphyxiation.

This migration crisis has been the subject of intense diplomatic activity for three days. Gérald Darmanin will go to Italy “in the coming days”, Giorgia Meloni and President Emmanuel Macron agreed on Saturday, promising to “strengthen cooperation at the European level (…) to find effective, immediate and longer-term solutions to this crisis,” according to Paris.

VIDEO. 7,000 migrants on the island of Lampedusa, state of emergency declared

Located less than 150 km from the Tunisian coast, Lampedusa is one of the first stopover points for migrants crossing the Mediterranean hoping to reach Europe. Every year during the summer, tens of thousands of them take to the sea on makeshift boats. “The migratory pressure that Italy has been experiencing since the start of the year is unsustainable,” explained Giorgia Meloni, who is at the head of a right-wing and far-right coalition, on Friday.

She estimated that “tens of millions of people” in Africa could want to leave their countries due to coups or famine, deeming it “obvious that Italy and Europe cannot accommodate this enormous m” of migrants.

A total of more than 127,000 migrants have landed on Italian shores since the start of the year, almost double compared to the same period in 2022.

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