Despite a number of transfers of migrants to other Italian towns, the Lampedusa hotspot in Sicily remains at risk of collapsing due to the continued inflow of new arrivals. Meanwhile the Agrigento public prosecutor has opened a file to collect information on the hotspot management which has been in the eye of the storm for many years with numerous investigations.
The Lampedusa hotspot is equipped to host 350 people, but on Tuesday (July 26) it hosted 2,200, despite efforts by the Italian interior ministry to ease the overcrowding.
Although hundreds of people were transferred to other locations in Italy on Tuesday, new arrivals overnight brought the total number of people at the shelter again to 1,982 on Wednesday morning.
Over the course of night Tuesday on Wednesday, several boats arrived. One boat that is presumed to have set off from Zuara in western Libya, was carrying 42 people, believed to be Syrians, Egyptians and Sudanese citizens. It was intercepted by the military coast guard.
Another boat was found slightly before 3 am in the morning, at 11 miles from the isle of Lampione, by a coast guard patrol boat. The boat in this case was 5 meter long and it came from Zarzis in Tunisia. On board there were 17 Tunisians and Moroccans.
Wednesday morning a third arrival took place. This time 22 migrants, of which nine were women and one minor, from the Ivory Coast, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Mali and Sierra Leone. Their boat reportedly departed from Sfax in Tunisia and it was intercepted at 6 miles from the port by the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (also known as Frontex) and by a Finance Guard patrol boat. All those on board were taken to the hotspot of contrada Imbriacola.
Public prosecutor opens a file on the shelter and its management
The shelter and its management came under scrutiny by the public prosecutor office of Agrigento, in Sicily which for the moment has opened a file although there are no formal suspects or alleged crimes being investigated yet.
In the past months the acting public prosecutor, Salvatore Vella, has collected information to understand how it is possible that a center for 350 people now holds over 2,000 at times for several days in a row. The overcrowding has meant that migrants are without beds and living in poor sanitary conditions.
The hotspot is run by the Badia Grande cooperative which also manages other shelters and centers in Italy. Its management has been in the eye of the storm for many years with numerous investigations including one that included the former director of the Caritas in Trapani, Sergio Librizzi, who presided the cooperative.
Last May, the Italian member of Parliament Erasmo Palazzotto (of the Democratic party), denounced the shelter's 'inhuman conditions' and presented the request for a Parliamentary inquiry with the minister of the Interior, Luciana Lamorgese, calling for their management of the shelter to be revoked. Following this request, an inspection was launched.
EU Commission works on mechanism of solidarity
The current climatic conditions appear to be part of the reason for the high numbers of boat crossings from Tunisia and Libya.
The European Commission is working "together with interested Member States on developing a solidarity mechanism," implementing a voluntary policy, said the EU's spokesperson, Anita Hipper, on Tuesday when answering a question on migrant boat arrivals in Italy.
"The role of the Commission is to coordinate the solidarity mechanism" and "the declaration of solidarity, adopted last 22 June" by 13 Member States, represents "the first step in the gradual implementation of this new pact" on migration, added Hipper.