The Italian island of Lampedusa is grappling with an overwhelming influx of migrant boats from North Africa, reaching a peak of 7,000 people, equivalent to its entire local population.
The reception centre designed for less than 400 individuals is now overcrowded, forcing men, women, and children to sleep outside on makeshift cots.
Tensions arose during food distribution, requiring police intervention. Some migrants left for Lampedusa’s town centre seeking sustenance. While some restaurants turned them away, others provided food for free or were covered by residents and tourists.
Located 90 miles off Tunisia’s coast, Lampedusa is a primary destination for migrants crossing the Mediterranean. Recent fine weather has led to a surge in arrivals, with over 5,000 people reaching Italy on a single day. Many are rescued at sea by the coastguard and brought to Lampedusa port.
On Thursday, nearly 400 arrived in nine boats from Tunisia. Tragically, over 2,000 individuals have lost their lives this year attempting this perilous journey.
Lampedusa’s migrant “hotspot” has long struggled with inadequate resources. The Italian Red Cross, which took charge in June, is finding it challenging to manage the surge. They reported over 7,000 people at the hotspot, and around 5,000 were slated for transfer to Sicily, where larger processing facilities are available.
Italy’s government allocated €45 million to Lampedusa to aid in managing the situation, but Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is calling for EU assistance. This year, nearly 124,000 migrants have arrived in Italy, up from 65,500 during the same period last year, though the numbers have not yet surpassed the 2016 peak.