EU's von der Leyen heads to Lampedusa after warning from Italy over migrants surge

Italian PM Giorgia Meloni says 'extraordinary measures' are needed to curb surge in migrants illegally crossing from North Africa

Migrants at a processing centre on the Italian island of Lampedusa after crossing the Mediterranean. EPA
Powered by automated translation

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will travel to Lampedusa on Sunday as the Italian government struggles to cope with a surge in illegal migration.

She will be joined by Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on the trip to the island where thousands have arrived in the last few days.

Ms Meloni on Friday promised to take “extraordinary measures” to stop people illegally crossing the Mediterranean in small boats bound for Italy and called on the EU to assist by imposing a naval blockade.

She said, if the 27-member bloc does not implement such a measure, Italy would push forward with its own naval blockade.

In a video posted on social media Ms Meloni said she had written to European Council President Charles Michel asking him to address migration during an EU summit in October.

She said she had also invited Ms von der Leyen to see conditions on Lampedusa.

President of the European Commission Ursula Von Der Leyen will go to Lampedusa on Sunday to discuss migration. Reuters

“I intend to reiterate a request for an immediate EU mission to block the departure of migrant boats,” Ms Meloni said.

Eric Mamer, the Commission’s chief spokesman, announced on Saturday that Ms von der Leyen was heading to the island.

“President Von der Leyen will be travelling to Lampedusa tomorrow on the invitation of Italian PM Meloni,” Mr Mamer said on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The interior ministers of France, Germany and Italy and some EU representatives discussed migrant issues during a phone meeting on Saturday, French Minister Gerald Darmanin said on X.

Germany has decided to keep taking in migrants and refugees arriving in Italy, Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said on Friday, two days after it announced the suspension of an agreement with Rome to receive new arrivals.

“Today is a time first of all for solidarity with Italy and also for mobilisation by the European Union to come in support,” French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne told BFM TV, adding President Emmanuel Macron would speak to Ms Meloni.

The Italian Prime Minister is under immense pressure from Italian lawmakers and voters to stop people crossing the Mediterranean illegally in small boats bound for Italy.

Italian coastguard rescues two migrant boats off Lampedusa

Italian coastguard rescues two migrant boats off Lampedusa

Nearly 126,000 migrants are reported to have arrived on Italy’s shores since the start of the year – almost double the figure by the same date in 2022.

A newborn baby was found dead on a boat carrying migrants to Lampedusa on Saturday.

The mother is thought to have given birth during the journey from North Africa, the Ansa news agency said, and the death is being investigated.

Photos showed a man carrying a tiny white coffin into the back of a vehicle before it was transported to a local cemetery.

Updated: September 16, 2023, 5:17 PM