Von der Leyen announces European plan to check illegal immigration during Lampedusa visit

Rome, Sep 17 (EFE).- The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, on Sunday announced an EU action-plan to check illegal immigration and share the load of immigrants arriving on Italian coasts, during a visit to the island of Lampedusa, which witnessed over 1,000 immigrant arrivals within a day before her visit,

“I came here to say to all of you: Migration is a European challenge that requires a European solution. It is concrete actions that will bring change on the ground. It is only through solidarity and unity that we can achieve this,” Von der Leyen said on X, formerly Twitter, as she visited an immigrant hosting center on the island with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.

The EU plan includes 10 commitments, including a solidarity mechanism through which other European countries transfer immigrants arriving in Lampedusa to outside Italy, updating European legislation against human trafficking, and establishing new legal and safe humanitarian corridors.

The EU chief also promised to increase aerial surveillance in the Mediterranean through European agencies such as Frontex and coordinate with the migrants’ countries of origin for the safe repatriation of those who do not meet asylum conditions in Europe.

“We will decide who comes to Europe and under what circumstances, not the smugglers,” Von der Leyen proclaimed.

The European leader’s visit to the island came even as more than 1,000 fresh immigrants had arrived there in less than 24 hours, while over 10,000 landing up within three days during the past week.

According to the Italian Red Cross, which manages the reception center at the main port in Lampedusa, more than 1,500 people were waiting to be transferred to facilities that had the capacity to host just 400.

In the past few days, Meloni had intensified efforts to secure a commitment for more aid from the EE as the local authorities are struggling to provide assistance to the immigrants.

Rising tensions on the island have led to the residents protesting to denounce a lack of resources and nonprofits that help migrants at sea demanding a meeting with Von der Leyen.

Meanwhile the number of barges trying to cross the Mediterranean in precarious conditions – mainly from Tunisia and Libya – has remained constantly high near the coasts of Lampedusa and elsewhere at sea, where rescue operations are carried out. .

Doctors without Borders (RSF) boat Geo Barents rescued over 471 migrants between Saturday and Sunday, including 205 minors, during a coordinated rescue mission with Italian authorities, which have assigned the port of Brindisi – in the southeast of the peninsula – for their landing.

Coast-guard vessel Dicotti also arrived at the port of Reggio Calabria carrying 700 migrants from another series of rescue operations.

In view of the emergency situation, Meloni wrote a letter to Von der Leyen on Friday, urging her to visit the island to “personally understand the gravity of the situation.”

At the same time, the Italian PM also announced a series of measures to dissuade migrants trying to enter Italy illegally, such as increasing the period of the migrants’ stay at detention centers to 18 months, the maximum permissible under law.

On Saturday night, the interior ministers of Italy, Spain, France and Germany held a teleconference on Saturday night with the European commissioner for home affairs, Ylva Johansson, to discuss the migratory pressure on the Mediterranean coast, especially after massive arrivals in Italy in recent days.

Italian interior minister Matteo Piantedosi said in a statement that high-level policy decisions were needed to establish a new operating strategy against human trafficking, aimed at enforcing concrete initiatives to “block the departure at their source.”

Even as the figures continue to evolve, Italy has witnessed the landing of 127,207 immigrants this year so far, almost double of the 66,237 registered in the same period in 2022 and three times higher than the 2021 numbers (42,750), according to latest data shared by the interior ministry. EFE


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