Italy has introduced new measures to deter migrants from attempting to enter the country.
Thousands of migrants have recently reached Itay, challenging Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s government’s promises to reduce illegal immigration. So far, more than 127,000 migrants have arrived in 2023.
To discourage migrants from attempting to enter Italy, the national government will extend detention times for migrants from three months to 18 months and create detention centers in remote areas.
“Past efforts to hold migrants have also largely failed, with those detained repeatedly breaking out of centres and often heading straight to wealthier northern European countries,” reports Reuters. “The Italian parliament in April approved measures to create new migrant centres for people waiting to hear the outcome of asylum applications as well as more detention facilities for those facing expulsion. As part of the package, it set aside around 20 million euros ($21.32 million) over two years.”
Most migrants travel to Italy by sea via boats. Last week, an estimated 11,000 migrants arrived on the island of Lampedusa – which has a population of roughly 6,000. The massive influx of illegal immigrants in one 24-hour period overwhelmed local communities and authorities. At a press conference, Meloni told island residents her government would earmark €50 million ($53 million USD) to assist the community in its recovery efforts.
“I would like to repeat that I do not consider this a gesture of solidarity of Europe towards Italy, I consider it instead a gesture of responsibility of Europe towards itself because these are the borders of Italy but they are also the borders of Europe,” said the prime minister, per Sky News. “If someone in Europe thinks that facing the global crisis that we are facing, the question could simply be resolved by closing it inside the Italian borders, they would clearly be blind.”
Migrants traveling to Italy are largely from North Africa, including the Ivory Coast, Guinea, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Mali and Tunisia. The majority of migrants, regardless of citizenship, leave for Europe from Tunisia.
“Migrants pay smugglers between 1,500 and 5,000 Tunisian dinars (roughly $500-$1,600) for a spot on the dangerous boats. But demand is growing despite the risk, and not just for Italy,” reports PBS. “Spain and Greece are also seeing an increase in migrant crossings this year.”
Most are seeking to avoid regional conflict as well as searching for economic opportunity.
European countries have had mixed reactions to the migrant crisis in Italy. Germany announced on Sept. 14 that it will no longer take migrants who have arrived in Italy. The German government said Italy has refused to abide by a European Union rule requiring asylum seekers’ applications to be processed in the first country in which they arrive.
French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin traveled to Rome on Sept. 18 to meet with Italian officials and offer support.
“There can be no message given to people who come to our shores that they will be welcomed whatever happens,” said Darmanin to the media, per Euractiv. He promised France would “help Italy to hold its external border.”