Boat with nearly 370 migrants onboard lands on Italy’s Lampedusa


Nearly 370 migrants onboard a fishing boat, in danger of sinking due to high winds, landed overnight on the Italian island of Lampedusa under escort by the Italian coast guard and police, ANSA news agency reported.

The migrants were met at the port by a demonstration organised by the far-right, anti-immigrant League party.

The local mayor also call for a general strike to push the government take action as Italy has been struggling in recent months to deal with daily arrivals of hundreds of migrants to its southern shores.

The main holding centre of the island is already overcrowded as it now houses some 1,160 people, 10 times its maximum capacity, Lampedusa’s mayor, Toto Martello, told ANSA.

Martello called for a general strike on the island on Monday, to protest the national government’s “frightening silence” on the issue.

“Lampedusa can no longer cope with this situation. Either the government takes immediate decisions or the whole island will go on strike. We can’t manage the emergency and the situation is now really unsustainable,” Martello had earlier told ANSA.

The new arrivals, including 33 children and 13 women, were taken to an emergency reception centre on the island.

About 30 other small boats, mostly from the Tunisian coast, had already reached the island since Friday carrying around 500 migrants, the Italian media reported.

Nello Musumeci, the right-leaning leader of sister island Sicily, on Sunday wrote on Facebook that he would ask the government for a meeting on the “humanitarian and health crisis”.

“Lampedusa can’t do it anymore. Sicily cannot continue to pay for the indifference of Brussels and the silence of Rome,” he wrote.

Musumeci issued a decree last week ordering the closure of migrant centres in Sicily to curb the spread of coronavirus, a move that was rejected by the Italian courts.

Sicily registered 34 new cases of COVID-19 on Sunday, four of them migrants.

Mayors on the island have voiced fears the presence of migrants could discourage tourism.

Meanwhile a migrant boat being towed by police caught fire off the coast of Calabria, southern Italy, on Sunday leaving four dead, two missing and five injured, according to police.

The Italian coast guard on Saturday also transported 49 people who had been rescued in the Mediterranean by the MV Louise Michel, a vessel funded by the street artist Banksy.

The 150 other passengers on that ship were transferred late on Saturday to the humanitarian rescue boat Sea-Watch 4, which now has some 350 people on board and is looking for a port of disembarkation.

The German-flagged Louise Michel had said it needed aid after helping a boat carrying at least one dead migrant in the sea that divides Africa and Europe.

Its crew said the 31-metre (101-foot) ship had become overcrowded and unable to move, warning that some of the migrants had fuel burns and had been at sea for days.

The rescued migrants later said three people had died at sea before the arrival of the Louise Michel.

Thousands of people are thought to have died making the dangerous trip across the Mediterranean to flee conflict, repression and poverty in Africa and the Middle East.

According to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, attempts by migrant boats to cross the Mediterranean into Europe have increased this year, up 91% from January to July over last year’s figures, to more than 14,000 people. (Source: CNA)