The mass landing on the coast of Sardinia of 158 illegal Algerian migrants has been described by police as well organised and indicative that a new, regular stream of North Africans may be heading for the small Italian island.
Between 1opm on Friday and the early hours of Saturday morning, it was reported that small groups of migrants landed at the ports of Sulcis-Igliesiente and Teulada, and on the beaches of Porto Pino (Sant’Anna Arresi) and Sant’Antioco. The 158 illegal migrants arrested by Carbonia police are all thought to be from Algeria.
Although migrants have been arriving on the island over the past year in groups of less than 20, police noted that this was the first mass landing in one night since the beginning of the year.
It is believed that along with the route across the Sicilian Channel to the beleaguered islands of Lampedusa, which saw 15,000 migrants land in one week, and the “migrant catastrophe” Sicily, people traffickers are focusing on the route between Algeria and Sardinia.
“These days the sea conditions are not particularly prohibitive and this obviously helps those who organise this kind of travel,” explained the commander of the port of Cagliari, Sardinia, Roberto Isidori.
All illegals had reached land unaccompanied aboard small fibreglass boats. This, according to investigators, is proof that migrants have arrived near the island aboard larger boats – such as a fishing boat or even a ship – and then redistributed onto smaller boats to make the short remainder of the journey.
“What happened today makes us understand that behind this phenomenon there is a huge organisation, which suggests that all these migrants arriving today did not happen by chance,” said the secretary of the Cagliari Sap police union, Luca Agati.
“Our forces are all concentrated on the control of polling stations [ahead of Sunday’s referendum], and it occurs to me that someone had prepared this landing especially.
“However, Rome is neglecting the emergency in Sulcis. The amount of work is becoming more and more overwhelming and the workforce of our police stations are always unprotected. ”
Officials noted that arrivals are almost daily: all young men, almost all Algerians, and always in “good condition” sometimes with mobile phones and often with backpacks and changes of clothing.
“Even this,” said Mr. Agati, “is proof that migrants landing in Sardinia have not faced the same kind of trip as those picked up daily in the Sicilian Channel by Frontex vessels.”
In April, the holiday island was taken hostage as Eritrean and Somali protesters who paralysed traffic by lying in the streets of the capital city of Cagliari, demanding to leave the island and be taken to mainland Europe. Sardinia is currently facing a crisis with all four of its migrant shelters currently at full capacity.