A small island in Italy has seen its population double over the last few days due to an influx of illegal immigrants. Lampedusa, a community with a population of just 6000, has been rocked by the arrival of nearly 7000 primarily African migrants in the last 48 hours, prompting calls for the European Union (EU) and Italian government to intervene.
According to officials, the influx of migrants overwhelmed the small island, with many officials lambasting the crisis as a “point of no return.”
On Thursday, Lampedusa mayor Filippo Mannino told a local radio station: “In the past 48 hours, around 7000 people have arrived on my island, an island that has always welcomed and saved in its arms … Now we have reached a point of no return where the role played by this small rock in the middle of the Mediterranean has been put into crisis by the dramatic nature of this phenomenon.”
Reportedly, the facility for migrants has a capacity of 400, prompting the local authorities to declare a state of emergency and take urgent action. Although the EU subsequently relocated 5000 migrants off the island in response, a firestorm of outrage still erupted online.
Jonathan Wong, a photojournalist, shared a video on X of Lampedusa’s deputy mayor, Attilio Lucia, condemning the island’s uptick in African refugees.
“200,000 migrants cannot come to an island of 20km [squared]. We have no facility. Free Lampedusa! We want to live in peace with tourism and fishing,” Lucia’s translated statement declared.
Sharing Lucia’s sentiments, former journalist and Leader of the UK Independence Party, Nigel Farage, shared a clip of the island being overcrowded by migrants.
“The invasion of Lampedusa in the last few days spells catastrophe for the EU and for us,” wrote Farage on X (formerly Twitter). “I warned them all in 2015, but no-one listened. These young men must be sent back, or millions more will come.”
Additional video began to circulate showing migrants protesting their lukewarm greeting, putting up barriers in the roads and demanding free food and financial assistance.
Others shared a tense video of two migrants getting into what was reported to be an ethnicity-motivated altercation.
Although some action was taken to relieve Lampedusa and its residents, many expressed that the migrant crisis needs to be addressed at a continental level.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni emphasized at a press conference that the “challenge of the massive flow of immigrants” affects all European countries.
“If somebody here in Europe were to think that this crisis that we are tackling and facing could just be solved within Italian borders, then it would be a very big and huge mistake,” she said.
Roberto Forin, deputy director of the Mixed Migration Centre, which researches and analyzes mixed migration, agreed that Europe’s approach to migration isn’t working. Speaking with DW, he said that “the situation in Lampedusa is the tragic evidence of this failure” and he doesn’t currently see a “political will to change this approach.”
While the EU signed a €100 million ($106.6 million) deal with Tunisia in July to strengthen border controls and stop migration from North Africa, DW reports that the European Commission has not yet paid, adding that the deal “is a work in progress.”