Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, paid a visit to the troubled Italian island of Lampedusa on Sunday and pledged a 10-point EU action plan to assist Italy in dealing with the crisis.
This year, about 126,000 migrants have entered Italy; this is almost twice as many as will have done by the same date in 2022. More individuals have been coming by boat on the tiny island of Lampedusa recently than the island’s permanent population, with over 7,000 arriving this week.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni followed von der Leyen, and the car taking them to Lampedusa’s migrant processing center was momentarily blocked by residents who were upset about the weight the island was bearing.
Meloni assured the demonstrators, “We’re working on it, and we’re trying our best.
After her visit to the center, von der Leyen, who is anticipated to run for re-election when her term ends in a year, laid out a 10-point “action plan” to lessen the strain on Italy, where the majority of migrants arrive by sea from the coastlines of north Africa.
At a joint press conference with Meloni, she declared: “Irregular migration is a European challenge and it needs a European response. We are in this together.” She said in Italian, “You can rely on the EU.”
The strategy calls for identifying migrants arriving in Italy via Frontex, the EU’s external border agency, and repatriating those who are ineligible for asylum.
Von der Leyen added that she had already spoken to several EU leaders about the idea and was certain of their support. Frontex will also increase marine and aerial surveillance of migrant boats and aid in the prosecution of people smugglers.
She vowed to expedite the flow of funding to Tunis under a pact reached in July intended to stop migration as well as the supply of equipment to the Tunisian coastguard, which is now the major point of departure for sea migrants.
By adding “the better we are with legal migration, the stricter we can be with irregular migration,” Von der Leyen also committed to improve the migrants’ access to legal routes while waging a protracted war against traffickers.
For Meloni, who took office in October of last year and has made combating illegal immigration a tenet of her ascent to power, the uptick in migrant crossings is a big political concern.
On Sunday, she reaffirmed that the best course of action is to stop people from traveling to Europe and not to distribute migrants throughout the Union.
Her cabinet will convene on Monday to approve strong measures, including the construction of new detention and repatriation facilities and an extension of the maximum amount of time that migrants may be detained.