Hoping to highlight their plight, hundreds of asylum-seekers and would-be immigrants have burst out of an overcrowded Italian reception centre.
They joined forces with locals to demonstrate on the streets of the southern island of Lampedusa. Both groups are united by opposition to a new facility that speeds up the process of repatriating migrants. One local woman said islanders accept the first centre but not the second, saying: “Immigrants have rights too.” A local man said he believed Lampedusa is a tourist island, expressing concern that it could now be effectively transformed into a prison. But Italy’s government is sticking to its tough immigration policies aimed at accelerating expulsions. On the campaign trail in Sardinia ahead of regional elections, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said his Interior Minister would be in North Africa on Tuesday to sign a deal on the repatriation of hundreds of Tunisians who came through Libya. Amid claims Lampedusa could become a Mediterranean Alcatraz, up to half of its population demonstrated on Friday. As for the migrants, having made their point they returned to the centre where the UN refugee agency has expressed concern about overcrowding.