EU Chief to visit island with Italian PM amid surging migrant arrivals
The sharp increase in arrivals has reignited the debate over the distribution of responsibility among European nations for hosting asylum seekers
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is set to visit the Italian island of Lampedusa this weekend alongside Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, following a significant increase in migrant arrivals.
The decision was confirmed by an EU official on Saturday.
The island of Lampedusa, located just 90 miles off the Tunisian coast, has recently seen an unprecedented surge in migrant landings, with approximately 8,500 individuals arriving by boat over the course of three days this week. The influx of migrants has placed immense pressure on the island's resources and facilities.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has urgently called upon the European Union for assistance in managing this challenging situation. To alleviate some of the strain, authorities initiated the transfer of thousands of migrants from Lampedusa to Sicily on Friday.
The sharp increase in arrivals has reignited the debate over the distribution of responsibility among European nations for hosting asylum seekers. Lampedusa, which is Italy's southernmost island, has historically served as a primary landing point for migrant boats arriving from North Africa.
However, the recent surge has overwhelmed the island's existing migration center, which was designed to accommodate fewer than 400 individuals.
Between Monday and Wednesday alone, approximately 8,500 people—surpassing the entire local population of Lampedusa—arrived on the island via 199 boats, as reported by the UN migration agency. Disturbing images of thousands of individuals sleeping in the open air, scaling perimeter fences, and wandering through the town have stirred frustration and concern within Italy's hard-right government.
Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini went so far as to characterize the influx of arrivals as "an act of war." On Friday, Prime Minister Meloni echoed the sentiment, urging the European Union to take more substantial measures to assist Italy in addressing this mounting humanitarian challenge.
Earlier this year, von der Leyen, with strong support from Prime Minister Meloni, reached an agreement with Tunisia in July aimed at curbing irregular migration flows from North Africa.