Landings of thousands of illegal immigrants from North Africa are becoming “dramatic and unsustainable,” and Italy and Malta say they have been “forgotten” by the rest of Europe amid a flood of migrants.
At the weekend Italian, Maltese and American ships were involved in an operation to rescue migrants packed into 25 boats on their way from Libya.
Malta said it was the biggest rescue operation in recent years.
Most rescued migrants are landed at processing centres in Sicily, but according to Piero Fassino, president of the National Association of Italian Communes, Sicily is now in a “critical situation.” He says that the numbers of migrants are “dramatic and unsustainable for the Sicilian municipalities, whose structures are insufficient and already over-saturated”
Luigi Ammatuna, the mayor of Pazzallo, on the southeast tip of Sicily, says the situation there could become unmanageable. The town took in more than 500 immigrants in one day at the weekend: “We already have the first cancellation of tourists, and if this continues we will be in real trouble.”
Three migrants died in the Strait of Sicily trying to transfer to a Maltese ship. The bodies were brought to Pazzallo, where the public prosecutor will investigate the deaths.
According to La Stampa, within 24 hours, 2,000 migrants were rescued by the Italian navy, while another 700 were on board merchant ships in the ports of Sicily.
Italy has had 50,000 migrants arrive this year, while 2,200 have landed in Malta.
Gil Arias Fernandez, Frontex’s deputy executive director, recently warned that large numbers of Syrian and Eritrean refugees are in Libya waiting to be smuggled to the European Union.
According to Angelino Alfano, the Italian interior minister, the numbers of migrants waiting in Libya to cross the Mediterranean are between 400,000 and 600,000.