With the latest arrival of 181 immigrants on a boat that had to be towed in by the Coast Guard overnight to the Port of Lampedusa, the number of arrivals has risen to 852 on the Sicilian Island, which has become a transit point and bridge between the southern and northern Mediterranean coasts.
In the past three days the Coast Guard intervened some twenty times in coordination with the Palermo coast authorities, rescuing at least 1,294 immigrants.
The new arrivals are tied to the difficult social-political situation in the nations of the Maghreb, in particular Tunisia after the toppling of now former president Ben Ali.
According to the media, many of the immigrants that arrived over the past days are Tunisian, also favoured by good weather conditions in the Sicilian channel.
The situation is complicating as far as assistance is concerned in Lampedusa: the local Centre of identification and expulsion (CEI) has been closed for some time and the government has not yet authorised it to reopen.
Organising the transfer of so many people in few hours is very complex, though the mayor of the Island, Bernardino De Rubeis, specified that “emergency is a very big word, it is more preoccupation”, adding that he will meet with Interior minister Roberto Maroni to coordinate the situation. The migrants will be accommodated in structures in Sicily and Calabria thanks to the collaboration of the local hotel associations.
“These are people who faced the danger of a sea crossing, who need to be allowed the possibility of seeking asylum, as some have already done”, said the Italian representative of the UN High Commission for Refugees, Laura Boldrini.