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Lampedusa migrant arrivals: Italian interior minister promises task force

Friday April 28, 2023



Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi (at the center) during his visit in Lampedusa on April 25, 2023 | Photo: ANSA/Concetta Rizzo

Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi visited Lampedusa following several shipwrecks near the island. He promised local officials that a dedicated task force would be put together to deal with the large number of migrant arrivals. The hotspot on the island houses more than 2,500 people even though it was built for just 400.

The Italian Minister of the Interior, Matteo Piantedosi, made a lightning visit to Lampedusa on Tuesday (April 25), following four shipwrecks off the island that left at least two people dead and at least 20 persons missing. 165 migrants were rescued and brought to the island where thousands of migrants have landed in recent months. Between Sunday and Monday alone, more than 800 people reached the island.

Overcrowded hotspot for asylum seekers

Lampedusa's hotspot for newly arrived asylum seekers is severely overcrowded, with over 2,500 people housed at a facility for just 400.

When Piantedosi met with the Mayor of Lampedusa, Filippo Mannino, he said: "I am grateful for what you are doing and for what you have been doing for all those years, and for what the citizens here are doing. Lampedusa would deserve a lot more, it would deserve at least the Nobel Peace Prize."

During his brief visit at the island's hotspot in Contrada Imbriacola, Piantedosi promised more support from the government: "I am thinking of solutions that not only have a structural dimension to manage migrant flows in an orderly way, but that will also move the problem elsewhere. I have great respect for the role that Lampedusa has, and always had, carried out."

He said that a dedicated task force would be established, an office at the ministry that would manage the emergency.

Lampedusa mayor worried about migrant boats

Mayor Mayor Mannnino listed the problems that the administration and citizens of the island face on a daily basis: "I've been repeating the same thing for the past nine months: the abandoned dinghies, the dinghies on the coast, the issue with trash, the issue with the sewers, the emergency with the corpses, the space in the cemeteries."

He added: "The state of emergency has been declared, now we must move forward with everything at an accelerated speed. Every week there are dead people. Due to all of this, a feeling of discontent is rising among the islanders. There was supposed to be a protest this morning, we convinced the tourist operators that are starting to be worried."

Piantedosi said that: "We must work to make Lampedusa part of a wider mechanism, supporting the island during phases such as this one. But at the same time, we must avoid everything that is unacceptable for the migrants."

40,000 migrants and refugees landed in four months

Some migrants who were recently rescued by Italian authorities -- among them women and some minors from Western Africa -- said they set sail from Sfax and paid 3,500 Tunisian dinars (that's roughly €1,000) for the voyage on a dinghy. Others who departed from Libya came from Bangladesh, Morocco, Egypt, Eritrea, Syria, Sudan, Palestine, and Somalia.

The small island of Lampedusa measures just 20 square kilometers. But it is a major gateway for many migrants crossing from northcentral Africa to Italy and Europe because of its location: Lampedusa is located halfway between mainland southern Italy and the Tunisian and Libyan coasts.

This is why the island has been strongly affected by the rise in migrant boat arrivals in Italy. So far this year, nearly 40,000 people from migrant boats have landed in Italy, compared to under 10,000 during the same period last year.


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