Migrants overcrowd Italy: Von der Leyen promises greater surveillance of the Mediterranean.
Thousands of migrants reached the island of Lampedusa in just a few days. EU Commission President von der Leyen gets an idea of the situation with Italy’s head of government – and promises greater surveillance of the EU’s external borders.
The EU Commission wants to respond to the numerous crossings of migrants to Italy with greater surveillance of the Mediterranean. The President of the Commission announced this Ursula von der Leyen on Sunday during a joint visit with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni to the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa. Meloni insisted on tougher action: the migrants must be prevented from crossing to Europe. Talking about redistributing people among member states does not solve the problem.
Help for Italy: Von der Leyen promises stronger surveillance
According to von der Leyen, the EU’s external border should be more closely monitored at sea and from the air. “We can do this through Frontex,” she said, referring to the EU border protection agency. The top German politician added that she supported exploring options for expanding existing naval operations in the Mediterranean or working on new operations. “We will decide who comes to the European Union – and under what circumstances. And not the smugglers,” said von der Leyen.
Italy is one of the EU states where a particularly large number of migrants arrive. According to figures from the Interior Ministry in Rome, more than 127,200 people have already reached the country via the Mediterranean this year (as of September 15). In the same period last year there were around 66,200. Because of its proximity to the Tunisian coastal city of Sfax, Lampedusa has been one of the hotspots of migration to Europe for years.
Von der Leyen and Meloni visited the initial reception center on the island, which was extremely overcrowded with around 6,800 people just a few days ago. They also visited the pier designated for migrant arrivals. Abandoned metal boats floated on the water.
Von der Leyen presents 10-point plan
According to EU information, there are currently three Frontex operations in the Mediterranean to secure the EU’s external borders, take action against smugglers and rescue people in need. But there are also repeated reports of illegal pushbacks in Frontex operations. This refers to the rejection of people seeking protection at the external borders, which is illegal under international law.
The expansion of surveillance is part of a 10-point plan presented by von der Leyen. Accordingly, the training of the Tunisian coast guard and other law enforcement authorities should also be improved. Von der Leyen also announced tougher action against smugglers. She also emphasized that the better legal migration is handled, the stricter one can be with irregular migration.
Given the situation on Lampedusa, the EU asylum agency is supposed to help Italy register new refugees. The country should also be supported in bringing migrants from the congested island. Von der Leyen appealed to other EU states to voluntarily accept migrants from Italy.
If asylum reform doesn’t come quickly, “the AfD can turn off the champagne”
To date, the EU states have not managed to pass a comprehensive reform of the European asylum system. A compromise was reached in June, according to which asylum procedures should be significantly tightened. But an agreement with the EU Parliament is still needed. The CDU European politician Dennis Radtke urges us to hurry: “If that doesn’t happen, the AfD can turn off the champagne,” he told the German Press Agency. The Green MEP Erik Marquardt complained about a lack of willingness to compromise. “The positions differ greatly and the negotiations are very tough.”
Meloni said it was up to the entire EU to deal with the situation. “If we do not take serious and joint action against illegal crossings, the numbers of this phenomenon will first overwhelm the states at the external borders, but then all the others,” she insisted. “The problem is a problem that inevitably affects everyone and must be addressed by everyone.”