The Sicilian island receives a record number of migrants by sea
A record more than 2,000 migrants have arrived on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa in the past day, an Italian official said on Saturday.
Some 1,778 people arrived on Friday, and another 267 people disembarked on seven small boats overnight Saturday, the official said.
Previous years have seen more arrivals but never so early in the year in the space of a day.
Lampedusa, not far from Sicily and the closest Italian island to Africa, is a major destination for migrants seeking to enter European Union countries.
Charities have saved many boats. Under the right-wing Italian government’s new rules, NGOs risk fines for breaching a code of conduct.
The number of migrants arriving on Italian shores by boat has more than tripled in the first two months of 2023, compared to the same period last year, according to the Italian Interior Ministry.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni blamed the growing figure on the “political situation” in Tunisia.
“900,000 people will arrive in Italy that Italy cannot accommodate,” Meloni told the European Council, while asking for the collaboration of European partners to accept migrants and help block departures from Turkey, Libya and Tunisia .
In February, a migrant shipwreck tragedy off the coast of Calabria in southern Italy killed more than 70 people.
Earlier this month, Meloni wrote to European leaders, saying it was their “duty, moral before even political” to prevent another such tragedy, and that a distinction must be made between migration and refugees.
“Confusing the two levels, as has often been done so far, is to the detriment of the most vulnerable and of people who need help. And that’s not right,” she said, adding the need for a single refugee policy across Europe.