Migrant arrivals surge in Italy as government mulls tougher measures
Rome, Apr 11 (EFE).- Thousands of migrants have landed in Italy in recent days, as prime minister Giorgia Meloni’s right-wing government was meeting Tuesday to consider tougher measures on civil sea search-and-rescue operations.
The Italian coastguard intercepted two fishing boats carrying a total of 1,200 migrants near Sicily and Calabria in the south, following the rescue of nearly 2,000 people who have crossed the Mediterranean since Friday.
The first boat overloaded with some 800 migrants was rescued more than 120 miles southeast of the Sicilian city of Syracuse, according to the coastguard.
The second vessel carrying 400 people called Alarm Phone, an alert service for migrants in distress at sea, and was intercepted by the Italian ship Diciotti off the coast of Calabria.
About 1,700 migrants were rescued off the island of Lampedusa in the past 48 hours, according to local media.
In Catania, meanwhile, two buildings were being set up to accommodate some 700 migrants saved in the Ionian sea in recent hours.
Italian deputy prime minister and leader of the right-wing populist Lega party, Matteo Salvini, said Tuesday that Italy is “absolutely incapable” of managing “a thousand arrivals a day” and that “it is crucial that Europe wakes up and intervenes”.
“It has been talking for years, but has never lifted a finger, and it is time to show that there is a community, a Union, and that solidarity is not only the responsibility of Italy, Spain, Greece or Malta,” Salvini said hours before a Council of ministers in which a state of emergency could be decreed, according to local media.
“We are absolutely incapable of supporting them economically, culturally and socially,” he added.
Despite Meloni’s government efforts to stem irregular migration, the Italian coastguard aircraft and helicopters, as well as Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, have taken part in the sea rescue operations.
Italy’s lower house constitutional affairs committee resumed Tuesday examining an illegal migration bill, which if passed would increase prison sentences for smugglers and impede NGOs’ rescue efforts at sea.
Interior ministry undersecretary Nicola Molteni said the ministry was studying amendments to toughen the law while “taking into account the special relevance of the ongoing migration flow.”
The good weather has prompted more people, mostly from Tunisia, to take the route connecting North Africa with the coasts of Lampedusa and Sicily in the central Mediterranean.
Some 28,000 migrants have arrived in Italy during the first three months of 2023, 300% more than the 6,800 recorded in 2022. EFE