© Reuters. Migrants collect on the hotspot, a reception centre for migrants, forward of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s go to to the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, Italy, September 17, 2023. REUTERS/Yara Nar
By Yara Nardi
LAMPEDUSA, Italy (Reuters) – European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Sunday visited the Italian island of Lampedusa, which is combating a surge in migrant arrivals, and promised a 10-point EU action plan to assist Italy take care of the state of affairs.
Nearly 126,000 migrants have arrived in Italy to date this 12 months, nearly double the determine by the identical date in 2022. The small island of Lampedusa has just lately seen a pointy rise in the variety of individuals arriving by boat, with greater than 7,000 touchdown this week, greater than the island’s everlasting inhabitants.
Von der Leyen was accompanied by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and the automobile carrying them to Lampedusa’s migrant reception centre was briefly blocked by locals protesting over the burden going through the island.
“We’re working on it … we are doing our best,” Meloni informed the protesters.
Following the go to to the centre, von der Leyen, who is anticipated to run for a second time period when her mandate expires subsequent 12 months, set out a 10-point “action plan” to alleviate stress on Italy, the place most migrants arrive from north Africa’s shores by boat.
“Irregular migration is a European challenge and it needs a European response, we are in this together,” she stated at a joint information convention with Meloni. “You can count on the EU,” she added in Italian.
The plan contains utilizing the EU’s exterior borders company Frontex to determine migrants arriving in Italy and repatriate these not eligible for asylum.
Frontex would additionally step up sea and aerial surveillance of migrant boats and assist crack down on people-smugglers, von der Leyen stated, including that she had already spoken to a number of EU leaders concerning the plan and was assured of their assist.
She promised to hurry up the availability of kit to the coastguard of Tunisia, at the moment the primary departure level for sea migrants, and speed up the switch of funds to Tunis underneath a deal struck in July geared toward curbing migration.
Von der Leyen additionally vowed to extend entry to authorized channels for the migrants, saying “the better we are with legal migration the stricter we can be with irregular migration,” whereas committing to a sustained battle towards traffickers.
The surge in migrant crossings is a significant political headache for Meloni, who took workplace in October final 12 months and has made preventing unlawful immigration a cornerstone of her rise to energy.
She reiterated on Sunday that the precise method is to forestall individuals leaving for Europe, not redistributing migrants across the bloc.
On Monday her cupboard will meet to approve robust measures, together with constructing new detention and repatriation centres and lengthening the utmost time migrants may be held for.