In the past few days the island’s migrant camp has received four times as many new arrivals as its capacity. The interior minister intends to redistribute the migrants between the country’s reception centres, but many politicians and mayors have protested against the plan.
In the past few days, more than a thousand migrants have reached the Italian island of Lampedusa, where the reception centre has a capacity to hold around 250 people. To ease the strain on the island, the interior ministry is planning to redistribute the migrants among the country’s various migrant camps.
The anti-immigration Lega party, the right-wing partner in Italy’s coalition government set up in February, strongly opposes the proposal and demands the closure of the borders. Two leading politicians of Lega’s national section Lega Nord Liguria – Edoardo Rixi and Matteo Camiciottoli – raised their voices against the government’s plans, saying Italy has no more space or money to take in migrants. The available financial resources will be used to help families and workers in need, they added. Lega, a strong proponent of strict border defence, commits no crime by this. To the contrary, it performs its duty, they argued.
Giacomo Ghilardi, the mayor of Lombardy’s Cinisello Balsamo, and lawmaker Fabrizio Cecchetti have made similar statements, emphasizing that their region would take in none of the 559 migrants the ministry is planning to redistribute between Italy’s regions. They both stressed that many families are struggling and many have been left without work and income in the region, adding that the existing resources should be spent on helping these people.
The migration crisis is exacerbated by the fact that several NGO vessels keep scouring the sea looking for illegal immigrants. Sea Eye, carrying more than 400 people, headed for Italy on Tuesday after Maltese authorities had refused to grant it docking permission. As the vessel is registered in Regensburg, it should take the illegal migrants there, the authorities argued.
The interior ministry’s deputy registrar has also expressed his views. “Italy cannot be held responsible for the migrants rescued on international waters being transported on a boat owned by a German NGO. In the spirit of European solidarity and burden sharing, the ship should dock in Germany.”
On 18 May Eugenio Zoffili, chairman of the parliamentary committee in charge of the implementation of the Schengen Treaty, also visited Lampedusa’s refugee centre, and he shared his experiences with the daily Il Giornale paper in an interview. Although the situation on the island has somewhat improved, no one should experience such circumstances in a civilised country, he said. The politician noted that the island saw the arrival of over one thousand irregular migrants in the past few days alone, even though the reception centre can only accomodate 250 people. “This makes the monitoring, quarantining, and testing of the immigrants almost impossible. I saw the whole of Lampedusa, which Europe has handed over to people smugglers. The situation is nearing collapse, Draghi must intervene as soon as possible,” he emphasized.
Following his visit to the island, Mr Zoffili requested a hearing with Interior Minister Luciana Lamorghese to be held 19 May, to accelarate proceesings.