aThe small Italian island of Lampedusa on the Mediterranean has brought in more than 2,000 migrants by boat within a short period of time – and the number of boats is expected to increase on Monday. This was reported by ANSA news agency. In Italy, alert calls increased after the number of arrivals tripled compared to the previous year.
On Monday night, patrol ships off Lampedusa picked up several hundred people from small boats and took them ashore. Others, according to Ansa, arrived at the coast themselves. This means that the number of men, women and children registered on the island by 20 drops within 24 hours, increased to 2128. Lampedusa is located between North Africa and the main island of Sicily, to which the island administratively belongs. Usually around 6000 people live in Lampedusa.
The regional president of Sicily, Nilo Musomisi, spoke of an „unresolved humanitarian tragedy of migrants in the Mediterranean region”. Everyone knows that many migrants will die at sea in the coming weeks. He wrote on Facebook: „But no one raises their finger, neither in Rome nor in Brussels.”
12,900 immigrants arrived in Italy
In recent weeks, marine rescue workers in the Mediterranean have also noted that a large number of migrants are once again making the dangerous journey to Europe in inflatable boats and small wooden ships, often from Libya and Tunisia. One reason, she said, is the good May weather with the often calm waves.
According to statistics of the Ministry of the Interior in Rome, nearly 12,900 immigrants had arrived in Italy by Monday morning since the beginning of the year. A year ago there were 4,180 at the same time, with a particularly large number coming from Tunisia, Ivory Coast and Bangladesh. Right-wing parties, including Lega, former Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, have warned of „thousands of illegal immigrants” over the weekend. The party leader called for a meeting with Prime Minister Mario Draghi. “With millions of Italians in trouble, we cannot think of thousands of illegal immigrants,” Salvini said.
Salvini announced Sunday evening that he would seek solutions with Interior Minister Luciana Lamorghese. Lamorgese has already been in contact with Draghi due to the increasing number of boat migrants, according to ANSA. The Italian government is trying to quickly redistribute boat migrants within the European Union (EU) to other countries. However, many of these countries are resistant to it.
More people are also arriving from the Mediterranean island of Malta. Alarm Phone has called for the help of five boats with more than 400 passengers in Maltese waters. „The situation on board the ship is critical,” the organization said. „Rescue is needed now!”
The rescue ship „Sea Watch 4” was arrested in Sicily
Meanwhile, marine rescuers have reported being obstructed by Italian authorities. On Monday, marine rescuers told the German relief organization Sea-Watch that they feared their „Sea-Watch 4” vessel would be detained for a longer period in the Sicilian port city of Trapani due to an official order. Rescuers arrived there last week with more than 450 migrants on a boat.
A Sea Watch spokeswoman said the crew is currently under quarantine for 14 days. After that, however, it was not clear if the vessel would be allowed to set sail again. According to the organization, „Sea-Watch 4” was arrested again based on an order issued in September 2020, and because of that, it was already detained at the port.
This was, meanwhile, lifted until the Italian Coast Guard lodged an interception recently. Judicial authorities in Sicily said that during a search of „Sea-Watch 4”, a large number of life jackets were found on board. The authority said the ship’s sewage system was not designed for such a large number of people who had been rescued.
The Italian Coast Guard confiscated another ship of the organization, the „Sea Watch 3”, in the Sicilian port of Augusta in March. In this case, too, the authority relied on violations of safety regulations. This means that none of the organization’s ships can currently leave the port.
The sea route across the Mediterranean is one of the most important routes for people on their way to Europe. According to statistics from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), nearly 530,000 people have arrived in Italy in this way since the beginning of 2015.
However, the route between North Africa and Sicily is also one of the most dangerous migration routes. 359 people have died, according to the International Organization for Migration. The United Nations estimates that just over 500 migrants have drowned.