Illustration of migrants arriving in Lampedusa on September 2023. EPA-EFE/CIRO FUSCO


Italy’s Lampedusa island sees sudden influx of migrants


More than 1,700 migrants came to the Italian island of Lampedusa by boat over the weekend of March 23.

On the Saturday alone, there were 21 landings reported, comprising an estimated 1,000 migrants.

Illustrating the danger of the perilous crossing, one of the boats carrying 45 migrants sank before reaching the island.

Those on board were able to reach the shore except a 15-month-old, who is missing and has most likely died, according to authorities.

The island’s immigrant reception is bursting at the seams. At the time of writing, the Imbriacola centre (Contrada Imbriacola Hotspot) holds 1,087 migrants.

Some 380 people were loaded onto a ferry on the evening of March 23 to be taken to the Italian mainland.

Fifteen Tunisians migrants, including two minors, were identified by the European border agency Frontex. The Tunisian migrants had travelled in two 3-metre canoes and had been sighted earlier. One of the canoes had an engine and was towing the other boat.

The occupants said they had paid more than €2,300 for the trip and had no compass or other tools to give them directions.

The boats that washed up in Lampedusa, mostly wooden or made of fibreglass, came from both Tunisia and Libya.

Popular points of departure are, according to migration agencies, the Tunisian city of Sfax and Sabratha and, in Libya, Zuara.

Cited prices for the journey range between €1,000 and €5,000.

Such migrants have arrived from all over Asia and Africa, including Bangladesh, Egypt, Pakistan, Syria, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Sierra Leone.

Until the latest incident, the Central Mediterranean had seen a decrease in crossings, with more migrants trying West African and Eastern Mediterranean routes. The spike in Lampedusa seems to suggest a change.

The mayor of Lampedusa and Linosa, Filippo Mannino, warned in the Palermo-based newspaper Il Sicilia that the Italian Government had to be better prepared and said dedicated ships were needed to transfer migrants away from Lampedusa.

Mannino said: “I will write again to Rome about the issue of sunken or abandoned boats on the coasts because it has now become a problem that can no longer be postponed, both for the decorum of the territory and for the damage caused to fishermen.

“I will also ask the Ministers of Environment and Agriculture to intervene.”

Local police are also demanding more resources to enable officers to work effectively.

Rome is said to be working on migration centres in Albania to which arrivals who make illegal crossings could be sent, supposedly in a bid to make Italy a “less attractive” destination.