The head of the EU promised an action plan for migrants in Lampedusa, Italy | Albiseyler

The head of the EU promised an action plan for migrants in Lampedusa, Italy

LAMPEDUSA, Italy, Sept 17 (Reuters) – European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited the Italian island of Lampedusa on Sunday, which is struggling with a surge in migrants, and pledged a 10-point EU action plan to help Italy deal with the problem. situation.

Almost 126,000 migrants have arrived in Italy so far this year, nearly double the number for the same date in 2022. The tiny island of Lampedusa has seen a surge in boat arrivals recently, with more than 7,000 arriving this week. , more than usual population of the island.

Von der Leyen was accompanied by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, and the car taking them to the migrant reception center on Lampedusa was briefly blocked by local protesters over the strain the island faces.

“We’re working on it … we’re doing what we can,” Meloni told the protesters.

After visiting the centre, von der Leyen, who is expected to run for a second term when her term expires next year, set out a 10-point “action plan” to ease pressure on Italy, where most migrants come from North Africa. shores of ships.

“Irregular migration is a European challenge and it needs a European response, we are in it together,” she said at a joint press conference with Meloni. “You can count on the EU,” she added in Italian.

The plan includes using the EU’s external border agency Frontex to identify migrants arriving in Italy and repatriate those who are not eligible for asylum.

Frontex will also strengthen maritime and air surveillance of migrant boats and help crack down on people smugglers, von der Leyen said, adding that she had already spoken to several EU leaders about the plan and was confident of their support.

It has promised to speed up the delivery of equipment to the coast guard of Tunisia, currently the main departure point for maritime migrants, and speed up the transfer of funds to Tunis as part of a deal struck in July to curb migration.

Von der Leyen also vowed to strengthen migrants’ access to legal channels, saying “the better we are on legal migration, the tougher we can be on illegal migration”, while pledging a permanent fight against traffickers.

The rise in migrant crossings is a major political headache for Meloni, who took office in October last year and has made fighting illegal immigration a cornerstone of her rise to power.

On Sunday, she reiterated that the right approach is to prevent people leaving for Europe, not to redistribute migrants across the bloc.

Her cabinet will meet on Monday to approve tough measures, including building new detention and repatriation centers and extending the maximum time migrants can be detained.

Additional reporting by Tony Colapinto and Gavin Jones, written by Gavin Jones, edited by Louise Heavens

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