Concerns about Italy’s handling of migrants arriving on its shores are mounting. The UN refugee agency wants steps taken to address what it is calling “the difficult humanitarian situation” on the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa.
While its reception centre is massively overcrowded, locals have turned out in force to denounce a new identification and expulsion facility. It is part of a government strategy to keep migrants on Lampedusa while decisions are made on their asylum applications. Previously they had been transferred to other centres on the mainland. Despite widespread criticism, Rome believes its immigration policy is bearing fruit. “Since January 1, we have repatriated around 150 people, Egyptians and Nigerians, directly from Lampedusa,” Interior Minister Roberto Maroni told reporters. But, as thousands of boat people continue to head for Lampedusa’s shores, islanders have taken a stand. Claiming the new centre could turn their home into a “Mediterranean Alcatraz,” locals shut up shops and staged today’s protest. Organisers claimed more than half of Lampedusa’s 6,000-strong population took part.