A little under 700 people arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa early on Tuesday. The reception facility on the island, designed to accommodate around 250, is full to capacity and the mayor of the island has asked for help.
Unaccompanied minors and children were among around 700 migrants who arrived on Lampedusa in the early hours of Tuesday, June 15. Many of the most recent arrivals, stated the German news agency dpa, were from Tunisia. The Italian news agency adnkronos said that the latest arrivals came from Bangladesh, Eritrea, Egypt, Libya, Cameroon, Morocco, Sudan, Pakistan, Togo, Chad, Senegal and Tunisia.
The Italian news agency ANSA confirmed on Tuesday afternoon that eight boats had arrived through the night and into the early hours of Tuesday morning. They said that children were among the 634 arrivals, including a five-month-old baby.
One boat carrying 384 people
One fishing boat had 384 migrants on board from various nationalities, reported ANSA. The Italian finance police and coast guard also intercepted a further boat with 85 people on board a little way off the island.
Two small boats, one with 13 Tunisians on board, and a second with 12 men from Morocco and Sudan "landed autonomously," said ANSA. After they arrived, four more small boats followed them. According to ANSA, they had "20, 53, 54 (including the young baby) and 13 Tunisians respectively." On Monday, 442 people were reported to have landed on Lampedusa.
The reception facilities on Lampedusa are designed to accommodate around 250 people and are far over capacity. Adnkronos reported that there were now "more than 1,000 migrants" in there with the authorities unable to make enough transfers to other parts of Italy and on board quarantine ships quickly enough. It said the hotspot was "on the brink of collapse." ANSA said on Tuesday that there 1,367 people in the hotspot.
COVID-19: 'Delta variant' detected
According to ANSA, 100 of the new arrivals tested positive for COVID-19 and were transferred to a quarantine ferry on Tuesday evening. The local prefecture, said ANSA, is working on organizing other transfers with additional quarantine ferries and patrol boats.
On Wednesdsay, the regional newspaper La Sicilia reported that ten migrants who arrived at the beginning of May from Bangladesh had been identified as carrying the Delta variant of COVID which was first identified in India.
La Sicilia said that the presence of that variant, which has also been detected in a few other Italian regions, was still under 1% in Sicily but that there were fears because of its increased transmissability. All the positive migrants were not showing symptoms, said another regional paper, Il Giornale di Sicilia.
Asking Europe for help
After more than 2,000 migrants arrived in May on Lampedusa, the government in Rome has stepped up its continual call to other EU states to help ease the burden and take in migrants to their states.
The Italian state broadcaster Rai reported on Tuesday that Lampedusa’s mayor, Salvatore (Toto) Martello had asked for talks with Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi. Rai added that in the last two days about 40 migrants had also landed on the south coast of another large Italian island, Sardinia.
AdnKronos added that Martello wanted to try and get a change in migration policy. "Migrant arrivals on Lampedusa are not something new," he told adnkronos. "The point is that we continue to try and manage the reception as a kind of continual emergency. What is needed is a totally different approach."
New approaches needed to migration policy
That different approach, according to Martello, is to stop just addressing the arrivals and reception and start addressing the reason for the migration itself.
Another Italian figure proposed his suggestions for changing Italian migration policy. The director of the Catholic charity in Italy Sant’Egidio, Marco Impagliazzo, presented a five-point plan to help reform Italy’s migration policy. Impagliazzo said that the humanitarian corridors should be built upon and expanded and that NGOs, private individuals and families could also take on sponsoring migrants, reported the Catholic news agency in Germany, KNA.
Impagliazzo suggested that working visas should also be extended in sectors where Italy was in need of workers, like elderly care, nurses, agricultural workers and people to work in the tourism industry. The director also said that the EU should look again at the so-called Dublin agreement, which at the moment leaves much of the burden of processing migrant arrivals on the country where they first land, which is predominantly southern Mediterranean states like Italy, Greece and Spain.
Increase in arrivals in 2021
Tom Kington, reporting for the British newspaper The Times, was also present on Lampedusa. He pointed out that as Italy eases its COVID restrictions, tourism is also slowly coming back to Sicily and its islands.
Kington painted a picture of one beach where tourists lay under umbrellas, rubbing suntan oil onto their bodies, while "yards away, just over the harbor wall," a queue of "20 exhausted African men, women and children filed off a police rescue vessel before being packed into a van, some sitting on the laps of others.” This, said Kington, was for some of the new arrivals, “their first sight of Europe."
According to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, 16,819 migrants have so far arrived in Italy this year. The majority of those arriving this year are from Bangladesh 18% of arrivals, followed by Tunisians, accounting for 14% of migrant arrivals. Last year, in the same period, Bangladeshis also accounted for the majority of arrivals at 19% followed by Ivorians at 15%.