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"We are struggling to cope with thousands of new migrants"- Italian Red Cross

An Italian police officer and migrants   -  
Copyright © africanews
AP Photo


The Italian Red Cross has said it is struggling to cope with thousands of migrants at a cramped center on the island of Lampedusa.

Hundreds of migrants arrived on the small island over the weekend, stretching the center beyond its capacity.

The latest arrivals, combined with the rough seas on Monday which made transferring the migrants off the island more difficult, have complicated operations at the center, according to officials.

"Clearly, this is an important situation, and an emergency situation, because with 4,000 people in a structure for 800 it is evident that it becomes a critical situation," Ignazio Schintu who coordinates the centre for the Italian Red Cross, told the Associated Press.

Schintu explained that they were managing to maintain the basics of providing food and toilets for those gathered.

But, he added, there was simply not enough space and they needed to concentrate their energy on the more vulnerable, families with children and unaccompanied minors.

The Red Cross took over the management of the hotspot on June 1 and in the past three months Schintu estimates at least 48,000 migrants have passed through it.

Lampedusa is just 187 kilometers (120miles) from the coast of Tunisia and has become a stepping stone for migrants to reach Europe from Africa.

For the entire summer, authorities have shuttled migrants in and out of the temporary facility on the island which was originally is designed to house several hundred people but frequently struggles to accommodate thousands.

After a short period of time on the island, most migrants are transferred on ferry boats to other parts of Italy.

Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni, whose right-wing government includes an anti-migrant party, had enlisted the European Union’s help to forge an accord with Tunisia in a bid to stop the migrant boats in exchange for economic and other aid.

Her efforts have not slowed the arrivals.

As of Monday, more than 113,000 migrants have arrived in Italy by sea in 2023 according to Italy’s Ministry of Interior.

The figure is more than double the number in the same period last year.

According to the United Nations over 2,000 migrants have died trying to reach Europe by sea this year.

Schintu said one of the most difficult problems is dealing with the unaccompanied minors.

They are often held longer than other migrants at the center while waiting to find available places for them in centers for minors on the Italian mainland.