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23rd Jul 2021

Commission wants help for Italy after weekend's migrant arrivals

  • Migrants often first arrive on the Italian island of Lampedusa (Photo: Frontex)

The European Commission is demanding EU states come to Italy's aid after the arrival of migrants at sea.

Speaking to reporters on Monday (10 May), EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson said the recent arrivals need to be moved on to other member states.

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"There is a need for solidarity towards Italy and I call on other member states to support with relocation," she said. "I know it is more difficult of course in the pandemic times but I think it is possible to manage," she added.

The call comes amid Italian media reports that some 1,400 people arrived on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa on Sunday.

Although around 11,000 have arrived since the start of the year, the figure is relatively low compared to the large number of arrivals in 2015.

"We are talking about manageable numbers," said the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, who was alongside Johansson.

Johansson had earlier in the day spoken to Italy's interior minister Luciana Lamorgese.

Her services are also reaching out to other EU ministers in the hopes they will agree to take in the migrants.

EU states have mostly offloaded search and rescues to NGOs, merchant ships and the Libyans.

It is not the first time the European Commission has made such calls.

"We need a temporary arrangement to deal with the situation," said Johansson.

In its new pact on migration and asylum, presented last September, the commission floated an idea to better coordinate "a more predictable solidarity mechanism for disembarkation".

Johansson said the first meeting on the idea had taken place "a few weeks ago."

But when pressed if there should be a state-led rescue operation in the Mediterranean, she said the most important issue was the prevention of departures.

Grandi took a more proactive position.

"It is important that there is some form of state-led rescue-at-sea mechanism to make safe, predictable and well organised and well coordinated. This is not the case right now," he said.

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