Meloni-von der Leyen in Lampedusa: “Migrants are a problem for the entire EU”
The issue of migrant landings and their management is a “problem that concerns all of Europe” and not just Italy. Therefore, the response must be European, and perhaps even involve the United Nations, as the Italian government hopes. Giorgia Meloni and Ursula von der Leyen visit the island of Lampedusa, which has been heavily affected by the constant number of arrivals on its shores: first the overcrowded hotspot, then the Favaloro pier, sadly known as the place where the many dilapidated and makeshift boats carrying migrants across the Mediterranean arrive. And it is precisely on the pier that the Prime Minister and the President of the EU Commission linger longer, in front of the numerous abandoned boats, a sea of ‘carcasses’ that catches the eye.
This visit to the island is not just symbolic, but is intended, as emphasized by the two leaders, to be a concrete testimony of the awareness that all of Europe must provide a response. And it is precisely on this point that Meloni insists, warning all EU member states: it is a problem of “such magnitude that if we do not all work together, the numbers of the migration phenomenon will overwhelm all European states.” About three hours in Lampedusa to see firsthand what has been happening for weeks now: Meloni and von der Leyen are welcomed at the airport by the President of the Sicilian Region, Renato Schifani, and the Prefect of Agrigento, Filippo Romano.
Also present are the Minister of the Interior Matteo Piantedosi and the European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson. Along the short journey to the hotspot, the motorcade of official cars is blocked by a group of citizens. They ask to speak with the Prime Minister or they will not clear the road: Meloni does not shy away from the confrontation, on the contrary, she gets out of the car and reassures the people of Lampedusa, “we are doing everything we can,” and asserts: “As always, I am putting myself out there.”
Then, referring to the fact that the President of the EU Commission wanted to personally come to the island, accepting her invitation-appeal, Meloni declares: “The European institutions are with you.” Then the motorcade resumes its march towards the hotspot: a visit of about ten minutes (Meloni is given a t-shirt from the Red Cross as a gift), without, however, meeting the migrants present in the facility. Then the visit to the pier, the so-called ‘cemetery of boats’, where the two leaders linger for several minutes (in three days, 8,500 migrants have landed there, equivalent to the local population). Finally, the press conference before boarding the State plane.
The presence of President Ursula von der Leyen in Lampedusa “I do not consider it just a gesture of solidarity, but a responsibility of Europe towards itself because these are not just Italian borders but also European ones,” begins Meloni, who immediately makes it clear: “Serious, complex, and lasting solutions are needed, and we need to work together in the same direction.” Then the Prime Minister reiterates the same line as always: “We will never solve the problem by talking about redistribution. The only way to seriously address the problem is to stop illegal departures. This is what citizens and refugees are asking of us.” The repatriation system must be managed at the European level, she argues, and not by individual countries. In short, Meloni emphasizes, the future of Europe is at stake here.
But the Prime Minister is optimistic and explains that she trusts that “solutions will be reached at the next European Council in October.” As for Italy, the Prime Minister confirms that decisions will be made regarding the extension “to the maximum allowed by European rules of the detention for the purpose of repatriation of those who arrive irregularly” in our country, but differentiating the position of adult men from that of women and minors under 14. Finally, Meloni asks for the “rapid implementation of the memorandum with Tunisia” and for the EU to “consider supporting Tunisia’s budget independently of the IMF,” but also to start again “from the second and third parts of the Sophia mission, which were never carried out.”
Before leaving the island, the Prime Minister wants to thank the people of Lampedusa, “responsible individuals.” Von der Leyen does not disappoint Italian expectations and assures: “Migration is a European challenge and requires a European response.” And furthermore: “Italy can count on the European Union.” Von der Leyen then lists a ten-point plan, which includes, among other things, a solidarity mechanism to transfer migrants, updating legislation on human trafficking, strengthening Frontex cooperation, as well as a commitment to define “new legal and safe humanitarian corridors.”
Miles away, Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the League, Matteo Salvini, speaks from the stage at Pontida and reiterates: “We will use every possible means to stop an invasion that risks being disastrous.” Salvini guarantees unity: “Giorgia and I have the same goal.” But from the 100,000 League supporters on the field, there is a clear warning: an immediate naval blockade, as a reminder to the Prime Minister of the commitments made during the election campaign. And another, perhaps more powerful and heartfelt, leitmotif: “Autonomy now.”
As a guest at the League event, Marine Le Pen adds: “Woe to those leaders who do not realize the alarm signals represented by the massive arrivals in Lampedusa.” Departing for New York for the United Nations General Assembly, the Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, Antonio Tajani, assures that “the government will place the migration issue at the center of discussions in order to identify shared and effective solutions.” Opposition forces, on the other hand, criticize: “Meloni’s new line is an electoral campaign spot to outflank Salvini on the right. Everything we hear in these hours will not happen,” says the leader of Action, Carlo Calenda. What is happening in Lampedusa is “the total failure of right-wing policies,” adds the Secretary of the Democratic Party, Elly Schlein. The immigration problem “is being managed with the style of a nursery school: Salvini and Meloni are playing pranks on each other,” says the leader of Italia Viva, Matteo Renzi.
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