Europe

Italy: Record number of migrants arrive on Lampedusa

Published : September 29, 2021 16:33 IST

This year's total number of arrivals to date is nearly double the number of arrivals in the first nine months of 2020 and five times the number of 2019. Photo: Mauro Buccarello/AP/picture alliance

Numbers of migrant arrivals in Lampedusa are way up, including more than 500 on one boat late on September 27.

A rusted, overloaded fishing boat with 686 migrants on board was escorted into the port of Lampedusa late on September 27 by the Italian coast guard. The boat — carrying 658 men, 12 women and 12 children — was the largest single arrival in 2021 and the largest registered since August 2016, according to the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR. At least 67 people arrived on smaller vessels on September 27 as well.

Those on board the packed boat came from numerous countries including Egypt, Morocco, Chad, Ethiopia, Syria, Nigeria, Sudan and Senegal, and had set off from Zuwarah, Libya. "After a few days of bad weather, today with a calm sea the landings have restarted," Lampedusa Mayor Toto Martello said on September 27.

Were the migrants in good health?

The U.N. said many on board the boat were suffering from scabies, a skin affliction, suggesting they had been held in cramped quarters prior to departing Libya. Italy's Interior Ministry said the migrants would be taken to a separate vessel for COVID-19 quarantine. Recently, Italy began a program to vaccinate newly arrived migrants against the coronavirus.

Lampedusa is one of the main destinations of Libya-based people-smugglers, as it is geographically closer to Africa than Italy's mainland.

Impetus for renewed focus on E.U. policy

Mediterranean governments see the large volume of migrant arrivals by sea in 2021 as a reason to renew diplomatic focus on the E.U. so the 27-nation bloc can assist the frontline states.

Italy's Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese met with her counterparts from Cyprus, Greece, Malta and Spain this week in Malaga, Spain, to discuss regional concerns, including the upsurge in migrant arrivals. The Italian Interior Ministry data shows this year's total number of arrivals to date is nearly double the number of arrivals in the first nine months of 2020 and five times the number of 2019.

ar/aw (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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