The Italian government has promised to take over migrants from the island of Lampedusa quickly. In recent days, around a thousand people have come ashore, to the anger of residents and the mayor of Lampedusa.
Mayor Totò Martello blamed the government in Rome for not responding to his cries for help and for not having a strategy. He threatened a general strike on the island.
Today, the Italian government reported that another 120 migrants will be transferred from Lampedusa to mainland Italy tonight, according to the newspaper La Repubblica. Tomorrow another 300 will follow. In addition, Rome is sending three more quarantine ships to Lampedusa, in addition to the two that are already there.
About thirty boats, presumably from Tunisia, managed to reach Lampedusa in the last few days. They reportedly had about 500 migrants on board.
Also 49 people were transferred from the overcrowded rescue ship Louise Michel, which is financed by the British artist Banksy. There were so many people on that ship that it was more or less rudderless. The Italian coastguard brought 49 vulnerable migrants, mainly women and children, to Lampedusa.
Later, the remaining 150 people on board of the Louise Michel were taken over by another rescue vessel, the Sea-Watch 4. That ship sails near Malta and now has 350 people on board, without it being clear where they can go.
Old fishing boat
Last night another 450 migrants arrived on Lampedusa, bringing the total of the last few days to about a thousand. They were on an old fishing boat that was in danger of sinking. They were rescued by coastguard and customs patrol boats, which also took them to Lampedusa.
They were met by demonstrators, who feel that the island has far too many migrants to deal with. The reception centre on Lampedusa, which officially has room for no more than 200 people, now houses 1200 migrants. The demonstrators tried to stop the emergency services.
Mayor Martello said that Lampedusa can no longer cope with “this emergency”. He also wondered how the fishing boat could get a few kilometers from Lampedusa without being noticed by the coastguard, navy or the European border surveillance mission Frontex.