Italy’s Prime minister has warned that the “future of Europe is at stake” after a group of migrants landed on the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, reports RTE.
Thousands of migrants landed on ships off the coast of North Africa on Italy’s southernmost island this week, sparking a crisis that has reignited debate over the division of responsibilities among EU countries.
The bloc must work together to address the challenge of illegal migration, Georgia Meloni said at a news conference with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during a visit to the island.
It is “the future that Europe wants for itself that is at stake here, because the future of Europe depends on Europe’s capacity to face major challenges,” Ms Meloni said, reports RTE.
About 8,500 people – more than the island’s entire local population – arrived on 199 boats between Monday and Wednesday, according to the U.N. migration agency.
“Irregular immigration is a European challenge that needs a European response,” Ms von der Leyen said, calling on other members of the bloc to take in some of the migrants, reports RTE.
Large ships operated by NGOs such as Médecins Sans Frontières’ (MSF) Geo Barents, which rescued nearly 500 migrants in 11 operations, are sailing to major Italian ports.
But dozens of small boats continue to make the dangerous sea crossing to Lampedusa, where the migrant management system is on the verge of suffocation.
In July, Ms von der Leyen – with Ms Meloni’s strong support – reached an agreement with Tunisia aimed at stemming the flow of illegal migration from the North African country, reports RTE.
More than 127,000 migrants have arrived on Italian shores so far this year, almost twice as many as in the same period last year.
According to the United Nations Migration Agency, more than 2,000 people have died this year on the way from North Africa to Italy and Malta.
The EU is pushing for changes to the rules on managing migrant flows.
In France, members of the far right believe that Paris should not let any migrants from Lampedusa through the border with Italy.
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