In the night from Friday to Saturday, 267 migrants arrived. Friday morning, afternoon and evening, 1,778 refugees had already been identified, according to the news agency. A number of boats ran into trouble in the Mediterranean and received help from a salvage vessel and Italian government vessels, Ansa said.
On Saturday, the Italian coast guard stopped a rescue vessel belonging to the German humanitarian organization Louise Michel after a rescue operation off the coast of Libya. The ship is now chained in the port of Lampedusa. “We know dozens of boats are currently in distress just off Lampedusa, but we cannot help,” the organization wrote on Twitter. “This is unacceptable!”
Lampedusa is the southernmost part of Italy and is relatively close to the coast of North Africa. Migrants from Tunisia and Libya attempt to make the crossing in boats, usually rubber and not seaworthy, to Lampedusa or other nearby European islands. The journey costs many lives. At least 191 migrants have already died in the first months of this year, another 186 people are missing.
The number of migrants arriving in Italy via the Mediterranean Sea is increasing rapidly. This year alone there are more than 20 thousand. In 2022, more than 100,000 refugees in total crossed the Mediterranean Sea to Italy.
Most land in Lampedusa from North Africa, but the “Turkish route” is also becoming increasingly busy: larger ships sail from Turkey, eastern Libya or Egypt to the Calabrian coast. At the end of February, such a ship sank near the town of Cutro. At least 91 people were killed, including at least 35 minors. Also last weekend, at least one of the many boats en route from Tunisia to Lampedusa sank. Nineteen people on board, according to Italian media, from sub-Saharan countries, drowned.
Large crowds in Lampedusa are making waves in Italy, where migration hope is on the political agenda, especially since the recent Cutro disaster. An investigation is underway into the actions of the Coast Guard there, which opposition parties say could have done more to save the ship.
Partly in response to this, Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi said on Saturday that “public opinion” was responsible for the arrival of so many migrants: “It has a ripple effect that people accept this phenomenon in Italy”. There is no evidence for this claim. The high number of boats last weekend is probably mainly related to the calm weather in the Mediterranean Sea, the only constant pull factor that emerges from research on this migration route.
The overcrowded reception in Lampedusa comes at an uncomfortable time for Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni: on Friday, she returned empty-handed from Brussels from a meeting on migration. Italy’s right-wing government believes more needs to be done at European level to stop migrants and refugees.
Prime Minister Meloni, for example, said after the Cutro disaster that she wanted to tackle “people smugglers all over the world”. During Prime Minister Rutte’s recent visit to Rome, there was also a focus on tougher action against smugglers and reaching agreements similar to the deal with Turkey with other countries of departure .
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