Italy relocates migrants after Lampedusa center overflow

The Italian navy on Saturday began relocating the first 600 migrants from the Sicilian island of Lampedusa after its refugee identification center became overwhelmed with new arrivals and photos of filthy conditions circulated.

July has seen a sustained increase in daily migrant arrivals in Italy compared to recent years, according to statistics from the Ministry of the Interior. Overall, migrant arrivals are up sharply this year, with 30,000 would-be refugees coming ashore so far compared to 22,700 in the same period in 2021 and 7,500 in 2020.

Lampedusa, which is closer to North Africa than mainland Italy, is often the destination of choice for Libyan-based migrant smugglers, who charge desperate people hundreds of dollars to cross the Mediterranean Sea in boats and boats full and dangerous.

The Italian navy ship San Marco was taking 600 initial migrants from Lampedusa to another center in Sicily and from there they would be distributed to other parts of Italy. The ministry said the transfers would continue on Sunday.

Lampedusa’s former mayor, Giusi Nicolini, posted what he said were photos and videos taken at the center in recent days, showing new arrivals sleeping on the floor on pieces of foam and toilets littered with plastic bottles and rubbish.

“There are 2,100 people crammed into the Lampedusa welcome center,” which has beds for 200, he wrote on Facebook. “These could be photos of Libya, but no, this is Italy. And these are the ones that survived.

Right-wing lawmakers were quick to take advantage of the overcrowding, blaming leftist parties in Italy’s government for being too soft on immigration.

“And this would be the famous humanitarian model of the left?” Georgia Meloni, of the far-right Brothers of Italy party, tweeted along with the images. “Saying no to illegal mass immigration also means saying no to this.”

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