Three numbers and a quote illustrate how dramatic the situation is in Lampedusa. More and more people are arriving on the island in the southern Mediterranean, which belongs to Italy, who have fled across the water by boat. There were 5,100 within one day on Tuesday, reports the Italian news agency Ansa, more than ever before.
6,800 refugees are currently on the island, most of them in an initial reception center. Its capacity: 400 people, actually.
The quote comes from Filippo Mannino, the mayor of Lampdusa. “Everyone has helped in some way the migrants who needed help. But now it’s really time to look for a structural solution.”
Lampedusa city council has declared a state of emergency. The citizens are desperate and demand more support, said the mayor. In this situation, “despite immense logistical efforts,” it is impossible to guarantee adequate help for the migrants.
Hundreds of migrants tried to break through barriers
It is unclear what specific effects the emergency that has now been declared will have. Because of the high number of migrants via the Mediterranean route, the central government in Rome, formed by a right-wing coalition, declared a state of emergency in April.
According to figures from the Italian Ministry of the Interior, almost 124,000 people have been registered to reach Italy on boats since the beginning of the year – last year there were around 65,000 from January to mid-September. If the trend continues, a record number could even be reached by the end of the year to be exceeded in 2016. At that time 181,000 people came.
Lampedusa is located 190 kilometers from the Tunisian coastal city of Sfax and has been one of the hotspots of migration to Europe for years. The situation at the harbor came to a head on Wednesday afternoon. According to consistent media reports, hundreds of migrants tried to leave the port and break through barriers. As seen on videos, the police pushed people back.
On Wednesday night there was a terrible accident: When the coast guard tried to bring 46 people from a boat to shore, a five-month-old baby fell into the water and drowned. The baby’s family – the mother is a minor, as Italian media report – had made their way to Europe from Guinea. Their boat, like most refugee boats, came from the Tunisian city of Sfax. Other people also ended up in the water but were able to save themselves. However, any help came too late for the small child.
Dispute between Berlin and Rome
Dealing with migrants is also causing new discussions between the federal government and the right-wing government in Italy. Berlin suspended a program for the voluntary admission of migrants from Italy, the Federal Ministry of the Interior confirmed. Germany had originally promised to take in 3,500 asylum seekers from particularly troubled countries at Europe’s external borders in the south.
So far, 1,700 people seeking protection have been transferred via the so-called voluntary European solidarity mechanism to complete their asylum procedure in Germany, around 1,000 of them from Italy. However, further recordings are no longer planned, says the federal government.
In addition to the “high migration pressure to Germany” and a “tense situation in the reception and care of refugees”, Berlin also cites problems with the readmission of migrants according to the so-called Dublin rules. These rules, revised in June 2022, stipulate that asylum seekers must – with a few exceptional cases – submit their application in the first EU country in which they were registered. Anyone who tries to do so in another country can be sent back there. However, Italy has stopped accepting migrants for some time.