Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Europe’s Migrant Challenge: Italy Calls for EU Naval Blockade


Meloni tells EU to blockade migrants and save ‘future of Europe’

In an urgent call for action amid a mounting migration crisis, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni emphasized that the fate of Europe hinges on the bloc’s response. Meloni has urged for a naval blockade in the Mediterranean, aiming to curb the influx of small boats carrying migrants.

The call came as European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, visited Lampedusa, an island near North Africa that received over 10,000 migrants just last week. This influx exceeded the entire island’s population, which stands at 6,000.

Meloni highlighted the urgency, “The future of Europe is intertwined with our ability to address today’s significant challenges.” She stressed the importance of preventing departures from North African countries, notably Tunisia.

The leaders went to see dozens of small boats, on which hundreds of migrants have arrived in recent weeks in Lampedusa – FILIPPO ATTILI/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock/Shutterstock

The Commission President reciprocated with commitments to expedite the return of unauthorized migrants and to intensify efforts against the illegal migration trade.

Throughout her visit, Meloni reiterated her appeal for European backing in launching a naval mission, aiming to halt migrants from reaching Italy. The European leadership, however, has long been divided on handling the sudden rise of migrants to Europe.

Ursula Von Der Leyen and Giorgia Meloni speak during the migrant crisis in Lampedusa – Anadolu/Anadolu

Current data suggests that if the ongoing trend persists, migrant arrivals in Italy might surpass the 160,000 recorded in 2016. As of now, 126,000 migrants have entered Italy this year, which is nearly twice as many as the same period last year.

Tackling this issue is pivotal for Meloni, who had pledged to stop traffickers and set up a naval blockade. Yet, such promises remain unfulfilled, with continuous migrant arrivals further burdening local facilities and igniting protests in places like Lampedusa.

In the wake of the situation, some European countries have re-evaluated their migration stances. Notably, French President Emmanuel Macron expressed solidarity, emphasizing a pan-European approach to the crisis. Moreover, Germany declared its ongoing commitment to accepting migrants arriving in Italy.

In an effort to support Italy, von der Leyen presented a comprehensive 10-point action plan addressing the crisis. This includes short-term solutions, such as aiding the transfer of migrants from Lampedusa to other European nations, along with longer-term strategies to negotiate the repatriation of unauthorized migrants. A significant focus has been placed on a deal with Tunisia, which is the origin for many migrants.

Migrants queue at a camp in a harbour on Lampedusa – ZAKARIA ABDELKAFI/AFP

Meloni remains hopeful that the proposed naval blockade will be a focal point during the upcoming European government heads meeting in October.

In a related development, hard-Right party leader Matteo Salvini of the League joined hands with France’s hard-Right leader Marine Le Pen. Both emphasized their joint struggle for national freedoms and control over migration.


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