35,000 Migrants Landed on One Italian Island in 2021: Five Times the Size of its Normal Population

LAMPEDUSA, ITALY - AUGUST 04: Aerial view of boats and inflatables used by migrants disemb
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35,000 illegal migrants landed on the Italian island of Lampedusa in 2021, an all-time record for arrivals and a considerable increase over 2020.

The 35,000 migrants who landed in Lampedusa are more than five times the size of the island’s population of approximately 6,500 people. The new figure is also 15,000 more than the 20,000 migrants the island received in 2020, InfoMigrants reports.

Lampedusa is a Sicilian island located about 200 miles off the coast of Tunisia, North Africa. Its relative proximity to North Africa has helped establish it as a main migration route north into Europe, and it has been a popular port of call for the NGO-run ‘migrant taxi’ aid ships that scout the North African coast, even if such ships are sometimes turned away.

There is a migrant reception centre in Lampedusa, but the sheer scale of arrivals has massively surpassed the facility. While it was originally built to accommodate 250 people, at times more than 1,000 migrants or more can land on the island in small boats on a single day.

The international NGO, Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières/MSF), one of the charities which funds migrant transport ships in the Mediterranean, suggested in October that the Lampedusa reception facility should be expanded to help accommodate the rising number of migrant arrivals.

Attilio Lucia, the local coordinator for the conservative, populist League (Lega), challenged the idea at the time, stating: “For 35 years, we have been fighting against this invasion. The NGOs have to understand that they must leave the island. The government must intervene to block the landings and instead create vital structures that Lampedusans need”.

Italy as a whole has received an estimated 66,000 illegal migrants in 2021, meaning over half of all arrivals to the country this year came through the small island of Lampedusa. There are quite possibly more, but these numbers reflect the number of people who have been apprehended and processed by the Italian authorities.

The illegal Mediterranean crossing from Africa into Europe for migrants is sadly not safe, but due to the deployment of NGO boats, dubbed by some as ‘migrant taxis‘, migrants believe that they will be rescued if they encounter any problems in the Mediterranean Sea.

Migrants making the illegal crossing often find themselves aboard unseaworhty boats — provided by murderous people smugglers — which means even on relatively calm days, the crossing can be perilous.

There are no exact numbers for the amount of migrants who have died while making the crossing, again due to the vastness of the Mediterranean and the clandestine nature of big-money people trafficking gangs, but throughout the year migrant bodies are, tragically, continuously found on beaches in both Europe and Africa. Statista reports there have been 1,369 migrants known killed in the Mediterranean in 2021.


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