Migrants wait to board the Coast Guard ship "Diciotti" before being transferred to Porto Empedocle from the so-called "Hotspot" operational facility, containing over 1,700 people, on August 3, 2022 in Lampedusa, Italy. (Photo by Antonio Masiello/Getty Images)


Migrant chaos in Italy spreads as other ports overwhelmed


As Italy is relocating migrants who came ashore at Lampedusa, swamping the Italian island recently, other ports in the region are also now reaching the limits of their capacity.

The situation in Porto Empedocle in Sicily is the latest to feel the effects of the influx as more than 1,000 migrants have been transferred there and it appears many are trying to make a run for it upon arrival.

More than 100 people have reportedly already escaped from the facilities in the city as the intake capacity becomes overburdened. Local police are trying to contain the fall-out but to little avail.

“In the last few hours, the situation in Porto Empedocle has become explosive,” said Domenico Pianese, general secretary of the police union COISP.

“Last night some migrants, mostly unidentified, tried to escape by climbing over the fences, crushing the cordon of police officers who were trying to prevent their escape. One police officer was wounded with several injuries and a dislocation of the shoulder.”

The Italian Government is transferring migrants with the help of private bus companies but that is proving difficult as the inflow of people exceeds such capacity in Italy. A couple of days ago, there was a deadly traffic accident with one of the migrant buses coming from Empedocle.

The port city now faces free-roaming migrants who are allegedly intimidating local inhabitants, according to its mayor Calogero Martello of the centre-right Forza Italia party. “The people who manage to pour into the streets, and who wander around in small groups, put fear into even the least susceptible,” he said.

Martello said the situation was now “untenable”. Some 1,200 people are said to be housed in tents in an area of 2,000 square metres.  “People [are ] looking for water and food and trying, often succeeding, to get out,” he said.

To try to combat the crisis, Rome said on September 18 it was cracking down on the migrant situation. People who enter the country illegally can now be held for up to 18 months in detention. The government also promised to construct new detention centres.

The tightening of rules, the prime minister noted, was a “confirmation that, on these issues, as on many others, the whole centre-right has the same vision and everyone is working in the same direction, despite what we read and try to tell them these days”.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni also lashed out at European socialists and Josep Borrell, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Both have been critical about Italy’s handing of the crisis.

“It is sad to see that part of the Italian and European political forces, for ideological reasons or, even worse, for political calculation, are against and are doing everything they can to dismantle the work being done,” Meloni said.

She accused them of trying to argue that “none of the countries of North Africa is a safe state with which it is possible to agree to stop leaving or repatriate illegal immigrants”.

“In essence, the will of the European Left is to make mass illegal immigration inevitable.”