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Italy urges EU 'solidarity' on migrants

Some 80 unaccompanied minors from the island of Lampedusa's migrant housing center, Sicily, are embarked on the ship Cossyra, Wednesday, May 12, 2021   -  
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Salvatore Cavalli/AP


Italy called Tuesday for "solidarity" from its European Union partners in managing increasing number of migrants after more than 2,000 people landed on its shores in recent days.

Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese said there must be "structural changes" to the way the bloc managed migration, "with the activation of concrete and solid solidarity mechanisms, including emergency ones".

She held up as an example an agreement made in 2019, in which a number of EU countries, notably Germany, France, Italy and Malta, agreed to share the number of migrants who land in Italy or Malta.

The deal was suspended with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Her remarks, issued in a statement by her office, came after a videoconference with ministers and representatives of the EU and North African countries, including Tunisia and Libya.

Lamorgese, who will visit Tunis on May 20 with the EU's commissioner for home affairs, Ylva Johansson, also emphasised the need to work with the EU's African partners.

Between January 1 and May 11 this year, almost 13,000 people who left the North African coastline landed in Italy, according to Italian government figures.

This is three times more than in the same period in 2020, and 13 times more than in 2019.

The weekend saw a surge in arrivals, with more than 2,000 taking advantage of the fine weather and landing at Lampedusa, where reception centres are overwhelmed.

The stretch of water between Sicily and North Africa is one of the world's deadliest migration routes.

Some 621 people have died during the crossing since the start of 2021, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

After Tuesday's meeting, hosted by Portugal as the holder of the EU's rotating presidency, Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska emphasized "the need to invest in relations between the countries of origin, transit and destination as the only way to effectively manage migratory flows".