Thousands of illegal aliens have flooded the Sicilian island of Lampedusa over the past several days, prompting Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni to threaten "extraordinary measures" to curb future maritime attacks on her nation's sovereignty. Meloni has also called on other European nations to both help "stop departures" from Africa and eject those who have been turned down for asylum.
What's the background?
Lampedusa is an island that lies between Malta and North Africa with a native population of only 6,000 full-time residents and a migrant center designed to accommodate no more than 400 people. Inside a three-day period last week, the island was overwhelmed by well over 8,500 illegal aliens, reported the Guardian.
Sky News suggested the number of illegal newcomers had reached over 11,000 as of Sunday. Many of the migrants appear to be military-age men.
The migrants departed North Africa by way of the Sunni Muslim nation of Tunisia, then proceeded towards Italy via a flotilla comprising over 120 rickety iron boats.
The surge appears to have been the result of a bottleneck in Tunisia's ports caused by rough seas, which prevented human traffickers from launching at intervals as planned, according to Italian authorities.
Filippo Mannino, the island's mayor, stressed that Lampedusa is in crisis and has reached a tipping point, reported Reuters.
Locals rose up over the weekend in protest of plans to build a tent city on the island.
"We hate to see people suffering and have always been there to pull bodies from the sea or provide food and clothing," said Girgia Pirotta, a resident of the island. "But we can’t live like this anymore. These people deserve respect, and so do we."
It's not just citizens who are vexed by the situation.
Claudine Nsoe, a migrant from Cameroon, complained to the press about the living conditions on the island where she and thousands of others disembarked illegally, calling into question the quality of the food and lack of shelter.
Having not immediately gotten their way — which is to access mainland Europe — multitudes of other unwelcome guests reportedly broke out of the reception area and began blocking roads and issuing demands.
The United Nations refugee agency indicated Italy and the rest of Europe should cave to the migrants' demands for relocation.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees spokesman Matthew Saltmarsh said, "It's imperative to move people off the island because the resources there, the capacity is so limited."
Saltmarsh appeared far less concerned about the impact of the invasion on the native population than about the trauma migrants may be experiencing, reported Reuters.
Meanwhile, Tunisia appears more than happy to continue seeing off the fleets of migrant vessels bound for European shores.
The Guardian noted that the European Union has struck deals with the North African nation in hopes of stemming the tide, going so far as to pledge $1.1 billion in financial aid and to refitting 17 vessels for Tunisian authorities to use in search and rescue operations. However, President Kais Saied has done very little; unsurprising granted his previous indication that Tunisia would not be Europe's border guard.
Off, out, and no more
Meloni visited the island Sunday with Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, just after thousands of migrants had been ported to Sicily and mainland Italy.
The Italian prime minister made clear illegal aliens "threaten the future of Europe," stressing, "It is an epochal challenge for Europe."
Meloni told the press, "If anyone thinks that this crisis we are facing could be just resolved within Italian borders, it would be a very big mistake, because this problem involves everyone and needs to be tackled by everyone."
"I continue to say that we will never resolve it by talking only about redistribution [of migrants] – the only way to resolve it is to stop departures," added Meloni.
Von der Leyen indicated Sunday that the EU would explore "options to expand existing naval missions in the Mediterranean or to work on new ones."
Additionally, the German politico indicated those not granted asylum would be deported and human traffickers would face a crackdown.
"We will decide who comes to the European Union and under what circumstances, not the smugglers," said von der Leyen. "Irregular migration is a European challenge and it needs a European answer, so we are in this together."
Notwithstanding assurances from the head of the European Commission, France and Germany have reportedly vowed not to take migrants who touch down in Italy, according to ABC News.
According to Italy's Interior Ministry, roughly 126,000 illegal aliens have landed in Italy this year, nearly double what the Mediterranean nation saw last year. Put in perspective, every month so far this year, tens of thousands more illegal aliens have stolen into the United States.
Transport Minister Matteo Salvini said, "The boat landings at Lampedusa are the symbol of a Europe that's not there, that's so distracted it leaves countries to their own" devices, reported ABC News.
Former British politician and Brexiteer Nigel Farage said, "The invasion of Lampedusa in the last few days spells catastrophe for the EU and for us. ... These young men must be sent back, or millions more will come."
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