Migration crisis | Ursula von der Leyen and Giorgia Meloni land in Lampedusa. The president of the European Commission wants to see first-hand the situation on the Italian island, where thousands of migrants arrived this week
The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, and the Italian Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, visit this Sunday the small Italian island of Lampedusa, where thousands of migrants have arrived this week, reviving the thorny debate on the distribution of responsibilities in the European Union.
On Friday night, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni described the migratory pressure as “unbearable” about his country, and asked that the migration issue be included on the agenda of the EU summit in October.
In a brief statement issued on Saturday afternoon by Meloni’s office, it was indicated that both leaders would speak to the press on Sunday at 11:20 local time (09:20 GMT) at the island’s airport.
The migration crisis has been the center of a intense diplomatic activity in the last 48 hours. A telephone conference brought together on Saturday the French, Italian and German Ministers of the Interior, a representative of the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the European Commissioner for the Interior, Ylva Johansson.
The conference was proposed by French Minister Gérald Darmanin, who had already met on Friday morning with his Italian counterpart Matteo Piantedosi and his German counterpart Nancy Faeser.
The German minister “underlined that Germany had always shown its solidarity and would continue to do so,” said a spokesperson for her ministry.
Meloni and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed on Saturday that the French minister would also visit Lampedusa “in the coming days”, promising to “strengthen cooperation at the European level (…) to find effective, immediate and longer-term solutions, to this crisis,” according to Paris.
Located less than 150 km from the Tunisian coast, Lampedusa is one of the first ports of call for migrants crossing the Mediterranean in the hope of reaching Europe. Every year, during the summer, tens of thousands of them take to the sea in improvised boats.
Between Monday and Wednesday, some 8,500 people – more than the entire population of Lampedusa – arrived aboard 199 boats, according to figures from the United Nations migration agency. The migrant reception center built on the island is designed to house less than 400 people.
As hundreds of migrants were evacuated from the island on Saturday morning, others arrived by sea.
According to the Italian Red Cross, there were still 2,500 migrants in the overcrowded reception center.
“The migratory pressure to which Italy has been subjected since the beginning of the year is unbearable,” Meloni, who heads a coalition of right-wing and far-right parties, declared on Friday.
He estimated that “tens of millions of people” in Africa might want to leave their countries because of coups or famines.considering “obvious that Italy and Europe cannot accommodate this enormous mass” of migrants.
Macron defended a “duty of European solidarity” with Italy. For his part, Berlin has just suspended the voluntary reception of asylum seekers coming from that country due to the “strong migratory pressure” and Rome’s refusal to apply certain European agreements.
However, Berlin also seems willing to lend a hand to Rome, under certain conditions: relocations under the “voluntary European solidarity mechanism” can resume “at any time if Italy fulfills its obligation to welcome refugees” according to EU standards.
“Germany is fulfilling its humanitarian responsibilities by hosting and caring for large numbers of refugees. This also applies to the voluntary solidarity mechanism,” a spokesman for the German Interior Ministry said on Saturday evening, adding that talks were ongoing with Italy. on the resumption of these relocations.