NEWS » Lampedusa crisis - Italy calls for EU aid to deal with migrant issues

Lampedusa crisis - Italy calls for EU aid to deal with migrant issues

In the last two decades the island of Lampedusa, a tiny island between Sicily and Tunisia, has become the gateway to Europe for many immigrants every year.

Many people die every year while trying to reach the Italian coast. According to the International Organisation for Migration at least 20,000 people have died since 1993 while attempting to reach the shores of Italy.

Italy is still shaken by one of the biggest massacre in the Mediterranean sea, as on the 3rd of October, 360 people drowned in the shipwreck of a boat at less than a kilometre from Lampedusa. The lowest estimate reported by some of the 155 survivors, spoke of 518 migrants on board of the boat sunk in front of Cala Croce, the highest estimate was of 545. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there could be between 50 and 70 bodies still to be recovered.

Last week’s tragedy hasn’t stopped the boats arriving, and there have been 503 migrants rescued in the last few days in the Sicilian Channel.

Instability in Egypt and Libya and the civil war in Syria have caused this year a dramatic increase in the migration flow from North Africa to Lampedusa. Even though the immigration flow towards Lampedusa has become a regular problem during the Summer, when the sailing conditions are favourable, Italy has never been able to face up to the emergency situation, caused by thousands of people overcrowded in the “centri di raccolta”.

Now Italy calls for increased EU aid to deal with the migrant issue, and will press for increased help to protect the EU’s southern border. 

As the main Italian newspapers reported, Italy’s interior minister, Angelino Alfano said that Europe must find a common solution to this problem that doesn’t concern just Italy, but all Europe. A co-ordinated policy to stop human traffickers operating in North Africa is needed, and it is considered vital to bolster the capabilities of Frontex, the EU agency co-ordinating border management and surveillance, which should receive more financial support and be given greater powers.

On the other hand according to some of the main left wing orientated newspapers, Europe has been used as the scapegoat to conceal the Italian bad immigration policy. As a matter of fact, Italy hosts less immigrants than many other European countries. The Bossi-Fini immigration low has been the object of many critics for its very restrictive policy in terms of legalizing the presence of the immigrants in Italy and causing legal problems for those who try to rescue the immigrants in difficulty in the sea. 

Giulia Lombardo

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