eu to increase access to legal channels for migrants
The European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s visit to Lampedusa on Sunday has proved to be productive as the EU pledged a swift return of irregular migrants. She was on a three hour visit to the tiny Sicilian island with the Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.
In the past week, Lampedusa recorded an influx in migrants more than 7,000 arriving from Tunisia in boats. The island has a local population of about 6,000 and its migrant reception can only handle 400 migrants. Now it has been strained by thousands. The island, dependent on fishing, has little resources with migrants demanding food and water, and complaining about inhumane conditions.
But migrants continue to land on Lampedusa’s shores despite heartbreaking reports of a newborn dying shortly after being born on one of the boats carrying about 40 people and a drowning incident of a five month old boy during a rescue operation.
Crackdown on Migrant Smuggling
Von der Leyen declared a crackdown on the business of migrant smuggling. “We will decide who comes to the European Union, and under what circumstances. Not the smugglers.” She said the European Commission will look at options to expand naval missions in the Mediterranean, or establish new ones. Von der Leyen said the Frontex border agency will help ensure the swift return of migrants, who don’t qualify to stay in the EU, to their country of origin.
She also called on countries in Europe to assist with voluntary transfers. The executive acknowledged irregular migration in Europe as a challenge. “It needs a European answer.” Meloni agreed saying it’s a gesture of responsibility of Europe toward itself. She told reporters that if European countries don’t work together seriously, the numbers of this phenomenon will overwhelm the border countries and beyond.
System for Repatriating Migrants
The Italian prime minister said the government is working on a system for repatriating migrants who are not eligible to stay in Europe. Meloni said the huge number of migrants entering Europe threatened the region’s future, and called for serious solutions.
However, experts say a human approach is needed rather than deporting illegal immigrants or sealing deals like Italy with Tunisia and UK with Rwanda. Meloni believes the only way to resolve the crisis is by stopping departures. Von der Leyen called upon member European countries for a mechanism to take in migrants in an effort to help Italy.