On Tuesday, Italy’s right-wing government announced a six-month national state of emergency to help cope with a sudden surge in migrants reaching the southern shores of the country, Italian state TV reported.
Premier Giorgia Meloni, with her Cabinet, sent approval imposing the emergency status to deal with this migrant influx. The news source added that a special commissioner was also expected to be named.
Initial funding worth about 5 million euros was approved as part of this measure. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the governing coalitions of Italy also imposed a state of emergency, compelling the Cabinet to mandate several coping measures by decree, bypassing the long parliamentary process temporarily for regulations and funding.
Largely unsuccessfully, Meloni’s government, like many others before, has pushed for more solidarity from EU nations, which generally do not make good on pledges to accept asylum-seekers hoping to find work or relatives in northern Europe.
From the start of 2023, about 31,000 migrants, either rescued by Italy’s military boats or with the help of charity vessels or reaching Italy without any aid, have disembarked, per the Interior Ministry. That is close to four times the roughly 8,000 for the same period in each of the two earlier years.
The migrants’ arrivals, who reportedly set out in unseaworthy vessels facilitated by the smugglers from the shores of northern Africa, appear destined to swell. A smugglers’ boat, crowded with almost 700 passengers, was expected to pull into the port of Catania on Wednesday.
Italian coast guard boats were escorting the distressed fishing boat and taking it toward the shore when a sudden breakdown compelled it to require towing, slowing down its advance.
The coast guard had transferred about 100 individuals when the rough seas made the operation too difficult, and the decision was taken to leave the remaining migrants onboard until the vessel could reach the port.
On one of these days, 26 migrant boats, several without requiring rescue, reached the Lampedusa, a small Italian island located to the south of Sicily. The facility on Lampedusa, which is known to shelter migrants so they can be identified as a first step toward asylum application, was reeling under such a relentless stream of new arrivals.
The shelter is supposed to be able to accommodate nearly 400 individuals, but in recent times, there have been about 3,000. Italy chartered 100% empty commercial ferries to transfer hundreds to the mainland or Sicily.
On Tuesday, 1,600 migrants were in the Lampedusa structure, and relevant authorities were hoping for the weather to get better so that by an evening, at least 400 could be successfully ferried off the island.
There are several women with their small children. Besides, there are also unaccompanied minors, the director of the migrant centre, Lorena Tortorici, informed Italian Sky TG24 TV.
The highest number of migrants reaching this year is from the Ivory Coast, followed by those from Guinea, Tunisia, Pakistan, Egypt, and Bangladesh, per the Interior Minister.
For years, most smugglers’ boats plying the extremely dangerous central Mediterranean route departed from western Libya. But the recent months have witnessed many voyages starting from Tunisia or eastern Libya. Another channel starts from Turkey, aiming to reach Puglia or Calabria, lying toward the southern end of Italy’s mainland.
Reference: BBC, Radio Nigeria
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