EU Commission chief von der Leyen visits Italy over surge in migrants' arrival

PM Giorgia Meloni says Italy is being placed under "unsustainable pressure"

Italy Migration Europe The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, left, and Italy's Premier Giorgia Meloni, right, address the media during a joint press coference following a visit of the island of Lampedusa in Italy, Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023 | AP

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has toured the Italian island of Lampedusa, as Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni was overwhelmed with a surge of migrant arrivals. Italy's southernmost island was overwhelmed with nearly 7,000 arrivals in a 24-hour period this week.

PM Giorgia Meloni says Italy is being placed under "unsustainable pressure," BBC reported. Von der Leyen, on Sunday, said that the issue was "a European challenge and needs a European answer".

Von der Leyen visited the island after Meloni asked for EU help. Meloni said that migrants had arrived at the island only due to its location and praised the people of Lampedusa for the support they had given to migrants.

Meloni, who is calling for a naval blockade of South Africa, on Friday had said she would take “extraordinary measures” to curb the influx of migrants to Italy. According to government data, the number of people arriving by boat after crossing the Mediterranean has more than doubled this year, to 106,000 so far in 2023, compared to 53,000 over the same period last year Politico reported.

Meals are being provided to the arrivals by volunteers and local authorities. They are also helping to transfer new arrivals to Sicily and elsewhere. Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi, on Saturday, during a video conference with his French, German and Spanish counterparts, and EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson, called for concrete measures “aimed at blocking the departures at their origins”.

Most of the migrants have arrived from Tunisia.

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