Island Packed With Migrants Tests Italy’s Push to Halt Tide
On Italy’s southernmost island, Lampedusa, thousands of migrants crowded a reception center built for 600 as small boats hailing from Tunisia kept arriving. Outside Rome, a bus carrying migrants en route from Sicily to a center in the north crashed into a truck Friday, killing the drivers of both vehicles and injuring 19 migrants.
The huge challenges posed by immigration were in the spotlight again in Italy this week, undermining the efforts of the far-right ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni to show that she had made progress in dissuading migrants from coming.
In the years leading up to her election last year, Meloni positioned herself as a hard-line opponent to migration, calling for a “naval blockade” and suggesting that the boats used to rescue migrants be sunk once the migrants were taken off them.
Since taking power, she has changed tactics, signing a European Union deal with Tunisia aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from that country and working with the bloc to facilitate the redistribution of those who do arrive across member states.
The events of this week showed the limitations of that approach, leaving her in a quandary similar to that of previous Italian governments. Now members of Meloni’s coalition are asking her to take a tougher approach and saying that Italy needs more support from other European countries.
Most of the migrants landing in Italy this year set off across the Mediterranean from Tunisia, many in transit from other African countries.
Lampedusa, a rocky land mass surrounded by turquoise waters, with a population of about 6,000 people before the latest migrant surge, is 70 miles north of Tunisia and 130 miles south of Sicily. It has been the main destination for the growing numbers of migrants coming from Tunisia.
With the rising migrant arrivals, Lampedusa has become a focus of increasing tensions between Italy and North Africa, as well as with its European neighbors.
Some politicians have been pressing the government to deploy the navy to pick up migrants at sea to ease the island’s burden.
Meloni has rejected that idea in the past.
“It only makes us waste million and million of euros to send our military navy to work as a ferry to pick up migrants,”Meloni has said.
文／Gaia Pianigiani 譯／周辰陽