Italian Island Overwhelmed as Migrant Boats Arrive Every Hour on Average

LAMPEDUSA, ITALY - JUNE 13: Illegal immigrants wait to be sent to a temporary holding centre for foreign nationals on June 13, 2005 in Lampedusa, Italy. Lampedusa Island, in the Mediterranean Sea between Malta and Tunisia, is one of the main gateways for illegal immigration from Africa into Europe. According …

Lampedusa in the Mediterranean has seen a recent surge in migrant arrivals, with the Italian island now seeing an average of one migrant boat arrive every hour.

The mayor has threatened to declare an emergency as the local migrant reception centre has been flooded with ten times its average capacity.

Mayor Totò Martello said, according to Die Welt: “The situation has become uncontrollable. If the government doesn’t, I’ll declare a state of emergency.”

Most of the migrants on the island, which is the part of Italy closest to the North African coast, arrive from Tunisia. Another 200 arrived on the island over the weekend.

Lampedusa has been a hotspot for illegal migration due to its proximity to North Africa, but had seen a brief slowdown during the anti-coronavirus lockdown earlier this year.

Last month, islanders held their own referendum on the issue of illegal migration, with the vast majority voting to close the migrant reception centre, with only four people wanting to keep it open.

“For 30 years, in the face of the continuous violation of the most essential rights for the population and for immigrants, Lampedusa has been used as a military management platform for migration,” a committee of islanders said.

“All this with the complicity of local administrations and through a moral and economic blackmailing strategy, to the detriment of the local population,” they added.

With the rise in migrants has also come concerns about the spread of the Chinese coronavirus as several migrants brought to Italy by migrant transport NGOs have tested positive for the disease.

Italian authorities have placed migrants into quarantine if they are suspected of having the coronavirus, but there have also been examples of migrants escaping reception facilities under lockdown, such as in the Sicilian town of Siculiana earlier this month.

Last week, migrants escaped from another reception centre under quarantine in Brindisi, with at least one who had been confirmed to have the virus.

Initially, 30 migrants escaped, but nine were quickly found as they had injured themselves while trying to leave.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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