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HomeE.U.Lampedusa locals and migrants protest ahead of Ursula von der Leyen's visit

Lampedusa locals and migrants protest ahead of Ursula von der Leyen’s visit

The situation in Lampedusa is heating up as people are irritated by the long wait for the transfer of people from an overloaded reception centre to Italy, Euronews informs.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will travel to the Italian island of Lampedusa on Sunday. It has been overwhelmed this week by an unprecedented number of migrants.

Von der Leyen’s spokesman Eric Mamer confirmed Saturday that she would pay a visit at the invitation of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who is calling for a naval blockade of North Africa.

Residents and migrants are tense over the long wait for people to be transferred from an overcrowded reception centre to the Italian mainland. Some 7,000 migrants arrived on Lampedusa from Tunisia this week. The Red Cross informed 3,800 migrants remained on the island on Friday. Media reports say the number of migrants has dropped to 2,000. Moreover, the authorities are working on transferring most of them by the end of Saturday.

A crowd gathered in the city centre on Saturday. People were protesting against plans establish a tent city on Lampedusa. They demanded a meeting with a representative of Sicilian regional law enforcement. The official was informed that the islanders had run out of patience after three decades of fighting the new arrivals.

Italian channel SKY TG24 showed police using shields to prevent migrants at the reception centre from rushing towards the gate. Elsewhere, migrants sat along the side of the road waiting for a transfer.

Migrants continued to arrive on Saturday, but in much smaller numbers – about 500. Among them was the body of a baby who was reportedly born during the crossing. The mother was being treated at a clinic on the island.

On Saturday, Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi participated in a video conference with French, German and Spanish counterparts, and EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson. The minister called for certain measures “aimed at blocking the departures at their origins.”

The video conference participants agreed to come up with a “operational” response later this month when representatives of the EU justice and interior ministries meet.

On Friday, Meloni pledged to take “extraordinary measures” to deal with the migrant influx. She renewed her call for a naval blockade of North Africa, saying Europe needed a “paradigm” shift. The Prime Minister is convinced that such a change will help tackle the challenges of migration, including conflict, instability, rising grain prices and climate crises.

Obviously, Italy and Europe can’t welcome this massive influx of people, especially when these migrant flows are being managed by unscrupulous traffickers.

Most of the migrants came from Tunisia despite an EU agreement with the North African country to halt smuggling operations in exchange for economic aid. League chief Matteo Salvini has criticised the EU-Tunisia agreement.

In addition to inviting Ursula von der Leyen to Lampedusa by Meloni, Salvini will host French far-right leader Marine Le Pen at the League’s annual rally to be held in the northern Italian city of Pontida.

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