Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni attends a press conference in Lampedusa, Italy, 17 September 2023.EPA-EFE/CIRO FUSCO


Meloni warns UN: ‘Italy will not be the refugee camp of Europe’


Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is taking the migrant crisis hitting her country to the United Nations with a clear message.

Meloni is set to speak for the first time at the UN General Assembly in New York as prime minister of her country and she will put the ongoing migrant crisis on the Italian island of Lampedusa firmly into the international spotlight.

In her address, Meloni will ask the UN for “a strategic and comprehensive commitment” to address the issue. Thousands of migrants have swamped Lampedusa in the past week.

In Europe, countries are very much divided over the migration situation. Poland has already rejected any solution entailing the redistribution of arrivals. Rather, it wants to strengthen external borders and repatriate those who illegally reach Europe.

“The whole of Europe, the whole EU, may become Lampedusa if we continue to commit the same old mistakes, the scheme and mechanisms that the Commission proposed,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki warned.

France is also not planning to take people from Lampedusa, George Darmanain, French minister of internal affairs, said after he visited Rome recently. He did say France wanted to help in sending migrants back to countries that have good diplomatic relations with his.

Darmanain said most migrants speak French but have no prospects of being officially recognised as refugees or of receiving asylum.

Meloni echoed Warsaw. “I’m not interested in relocations, so I don’t disagree with him [Morawiecki],” she said during a press conference.

She did note “there is no solidarity in Europe” and added, “I will not allow Italy to become the refugee camp of the European Union.

“If we had a magic wand, we would have already solved the problem. We don’t have it, but I am convinced that we will make it in the end.”

At the ongoing UN gathering in New York, which concludes on September 26, she and her foreign minister Antonio Tajani have already met with the leaders of Senegal, Kenya and Guinea, where most of the migrants arriving in Italy declare they come from.

Meloni also has a bilateral meeting scheduled with the Secretary-General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres. Italy wants the help of the UN tackle illegal migration originating in Africa.

It wants the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to establish hotspots on-site in North Africa where would-be migrants can be held rather than travelling to Europe to seek asylum.

Italy also wants the UN to further raise awareness of migration difficulties – as the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs said: “The problem is global, and a UN umbrella would be crucial.”

Italy is reeling under the pressure of mass migration as it is a hub for Africans to reach Europe. Thousands have flooded Lampedusa and the number of migrants has exceeded that of inhabitants, far outstretching its capacity to shelter so many arrivals.