Italy approves measures to stop the massive arrival of migrants

Italy approves measures to stop the massive arrival of migrants

Rome — The Italian cabinet on Monday approved new measures to curb migration after the southern island of Lampedusa was again overwhelmed by a wave of arrivals from Tunisia and the migration issue returned to center stage in Europe with talks of a naval blockade.

The measures approved by the cabinet focused on migrants who do not qualify for asylum and are scheduled to be repatriated to their countries of origin. The government extended the time that these people can remain detained up to the maximum of the European Union 18 months. It also plans to increase the number of detention centers to hold them, as capacity has always been insufficient and many of those scheduled to return home manage to head further north.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni announced the “extraordinary measures” after Lampedusa, which is closer to Tunisia than mainland Italy, was overwhelmed last week by the arrival of almost 7,000 migrants in one day, more than the island’s resident population. Italy has been slowly ferrying them to Sicily and other ports, but the arrivals once again stoked tensions on the island and in political corridors ahead of elections. European Parliament of the next year.

Amid EU and domestic political maneuvering, Meloni resurrected campaign calls for a naval blockade of North Africa to prevent human traffickers from launching their smuggling boats into the Mediterranean.

Meloni was present in Tunisia in June when the European Commission signed an agreement with the Tunisian government promising economic aid in exchange for assistance to prevent migrant departures. A similar agreement was signed years ago with Libya.

Human rights groups have criticized the Libya deal as a violation of international maritime law, insisting that Libya is not a safe port and that migrants intercepted by the Libyan coast guard are returned to detention centers where abuses are rife.

Meloni visited Lampedusa on Sunday together with the president of the European ComissionUrsula von der Leyen, who promised a tough hand and presented a 10-point plan that included a commitment to support to prevent the departures of smuggling ships.

The plan envisages a possible working agreement between Tunisia and Frontex, the EU border force, with air and sea assets currently assisting search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean, and a coordination working group within Europol , the European police.

The Commission does not rule out the possibility of a naval blockade. “We have expressed our support for exploring these possibilities” raised by Italy, Commission spokeswoman Anitta Hipper said on Monday.

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