With a surge in new arrivals, the navy starts to transfer 600 migrants and refugees from Lampedusa.
After its refugee identification centre became overwhelmed by new arrivals and hundreds of migrants, the Italian navy started to move asylum seekers and migrants from Lampedusa, Sicily.
The Italian Interior Ministry said on Saturday that the navy’s Marco ship was taking an initial 600 people from Lampedusa to another centre in Sicily and from there they were being sent elsewhere in the country.
The ministry stated that the transfers would continue on Sunday.
According to the Interior Ministry, there has been a steady increase in asylum seekers arriving in Italy every day in July compared to recent years.
Globally, arrivals have increased sharply in this year’s first half, with 30,000 refugees arriving so far, compared to 22,700 in 2021 and 7,500 respectively in 2020.
Lampedusa is closer to North Africa then mainland Italy and is frequently the destination of choice of Libyan-based migrants smugglers. They charge desperate people hundreds to cross the Mediterranean Sea in dangerous, packed dinghies or boats, and they often charge hundreds of dollars each.
Lampedusa’s former mayor, Giusi Nicolini, posted what she said were photos and videos taken in the centre in recent days, showing new arrivals sleeping on the floor on pieces of foam and bathrooms piled high with plastic bottles and rubbish.
“There are 2,100 people packed in the Lampedusa welcome center,” which has beds for 200, she wrote on Facebook. “These could be photos from Libya, but no, it’s Italy. And these are the ones who survived.”
Right-wing legislators were quick to seize on the overcrowding, blaming the left-wing parties in Italy’s government for being too soft on migration.
“And this would be the left’s famous humanitarian model?” Georgia Meloni of the far-right Brothers of Italy party tweeted along with the images. “Saying no to mass illegal immigration also means saying no to this.”