More than 2,000 migrants arrive on Italian island in 24 hours

·2-min read
<span>Photograph: ANSA/EPA</span>
Photograph: ANSA/EPA

More than 2,000 people have arrived on Lampedusa in 24 hours as people smugglers took advantage of calm seas to launch at least 20 boats, pushing the reception centre on the tiny Italian island to its limit.

Hundreds of asylum seekers, mainly from sub-Saharan Africa, Pakistan and Syria, were forced to sleep on the dock after the centre rapidly surpassed its capacity. Hundreds more were being transferred to an unused passenger ferry offshore for quarantine until they can be tested for Covid-19. Another commercial passenger ship was being dispatched to Lampedusa to take on more.

Four boats carrying 635 passengers arrived overnight, after 1,400 migrants had arrived on the island on Sunday.

The mayor of Lampedusa, Salvatore Martello, who has launched a massive campaign to vaccinate all the residents of the tiny island against Covid ahead of the summer holiday season, has urged the Italian government for assistance.

Following a conversation with Italy’s interior minister, Luciana Lamorgese, the EU home affairs commissioner, Ylva Johansson, said: “Faced with this huge amount of (migrants) arriving in very little time, we need solidarity toward Italy and I urge other member states to support resettlements.

“I know it is harder to manage migrant flows during the pandemic, but it is possible to do so, and it is time to show solidarity to Italy.”

A police union official, Domenico Pianese, described the situation on Lampedusa as “literally explosive” in a statement which noted that about 2,150 migrants had stepped ashore on the island since before dawn on Sunday.

“If we have another day like yesterday, with an incessant succession of disembarking, it won’t be possible to manage public and health safety,” he said.

In the meantime, at least five people died Sunday in an incident off the Libyan coast. Among them, according to the International Organization for Migration , there could be a newborn baby. According to initial reports, the boat they were travelling on had capsized. So far this year, over 500 migrants have died in the central Mediterranean.

Last month, Italy and Libya were accused of deliberately ignoring a mayday call from a migrant boat in distress in Libyan waters, as waves reached six metres. A few hours later, an NGO rescue boat discovered dozens of bodies floating in the waves. That day 130 migrants were lost at sea.

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