Facing an influx of migrants, Italy declared a state of emergency. Photos/Illustrations
ROMA – Italia declared a six-month state of emergency in response to an increase in the number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa.
The decision freed 5 million euros or around IDR 81.5 billion in funds and coincided with the arrival of 3,000 migrants in three days.
Boats have landed on the Italian island of Lampedusa and the coast guard has rescued some 2,000 people since Friday.
Migrant arrivals to Italy have increased markedly compared to the same period last year, despite efforts by Italy’s right-wing coalition government to clamp down on illegal migration. A fishing boat carrying 700 rescued migrants is scheduled to arrive at the port in Sicily on Wednesday afternoon.
Italy’s Minister of Maritime and Civil Protection Nello Musumeci spoke of a 300% increase in migrant flows and said it was an “absolute emergency” which had put Italy’s infrastructure at risk.
“We are talking about a phenomenon that was never seen in the past. The islands alone cannot handle this emergency,” he said.
Even so, he emphasized that an emergency would not solve the problem. It requires responsible intervention by the European Union.
Apart from additional funding, it is not clear how Italy’s actions will cope with the increased numbers in the Mediterranean, but reports say officials will be able to expedite procedures for the admission and return of those who are not allowed to stay in Italy.
The Italian coastguard has taken control of two ships in the Ionian Sea off the coast of Sicily.