Arrivals of migrants on Italian island of Lampedusa swell past 2,100 in 24 hours

Authorities say overcrowding on Lampedusa has led to an 'explosive' situation

Hundreds of migrants have arrived on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa which has struggled to manage the influx in recent days.

Since Sunday, at least 2,100 asylum seekers have reached the island after making the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean to European shores.

Traffickers in Libya and Tunisia made use of calm sea conditions to launch unseaworthy boats, with the 635 latest arrivals following more than 1,400 who arrived on Sunday.

Some migrants were forced to sleep on the docking area after the island's processing centre 200-plus capacity was surpassed.

Officials say the overcrowding has led to a tense situation on Lampedusa, which is located 300 kilometres from the Libyan coast.

“The situation on Lampedusa is literally explosive," said police union official Domenico Pianese. "If we have another day like yesterday, with an incessant succession of disembarking, it won’t be possible to manage public and health safety,” he said.

Among those arriving on Lampedusa since Sunday are Somali, Eritrean, Sudanese and Bangladeshi migrants, UN refugee agency officials said.

In Brussels, the EU’s top migration official, EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson, appealed to member countries to help Italy by taking in some of the migrants. So far, no countries have responded to the call.

Migrants rest at a reception centre after arriving on the southern island of Lampedusa, Italy May 11, 2021. REUTERS/Antonio Parrinello

"So far, we have had contacts with several member states. Until now we haven't received any specific pledge as regards, for example, relocation," a spokesman for the EU Commission told a news conference on Tuesday.

“There is a need for solidarity towards Italy and I call on other member states to support with relocation,” Ms Johansson told reporters, after talks with the head of the UN’s refugee agency. “I know it’s more difficult of course in pandemic times, but I think it’s possible to manage.”

Meanwhile, newspaper la Repubblica reported that Italy's government is set to ask the European Union to pay Libya to stop migrant boats leaving its coast,

The scheme, which the newspaper says Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi may propose to EU leaders at a May 24-25 summit, would be similar to a deal struck with Turkey to halt migrant flows from the Balkans in 2016.

About 13,000 migrants disembarked in Italy from the start of 2021 to May 10, up from 4,184 in the same period last year, interior ministry data shows.