Italy declares state of emergency over ‘migration congestion’

The measure will last for six months and include the redistribution of migrants across the country and repatriations.

A Sea-Watch crew member helps a migrant boarding a dinghy in the Mediterranean Sea. [File photo: Reuters]
A Sea-Watch crew member helps a migrant boarding a dinghy in the Mediterranean Sea on July 23, 2022 [Nora Bording/Sea-Watch/Handout via Reuters]

Italy’s cabinet has announced a state of emergency on immigration following a “sharp rise” of migrant arrivals along the country’s southern shores, a statement said, in a move aimed at better management of arrivals and repatriation facilities.

The state of emergency will last for six months and will be backed by initial funding of 5 million euros ($5.42m), according to the statement, which was issued on Tuesday.

“Let it be clear, we are not solving the problem; the solution can only depend on responsible intervention by the European Union,” Civil Protection Minister Nello Musumeci said.

The statement said that this measure was necessary “to carry out with urgency extraordinary measures to reduce congestion” at an overwhelmed migrant shelter on a tiny Italian island in the Mediterranean.

The government also said that the funds for this temporary emergency scheme will back “new structures, suitable both for sheltering as well as the processing and repatriation of migrants who don’t have the requisites to stay”.

A government source told Reuters that this emergency measure will now allow Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s right-wing government to more quickly repatriate those not allowed to stay in Italy, boosting identification and expulsion orders.

According to the country’s Interior Ministry, some 31,300 migrants and refugees have arrived in Italy so far, up from around 7,900 in the same period last year.

Italy’s ANSA news agency reported that over the April 7-9 Easter holiday weekend, around 2,000 people arrived by boat on the Italian island of Lampedusa off the North African coast.

Stringent policies

Over the past few months, NGOs and human rights groups have been questioning Italy’s stringent migration policies, over concerns that they could violate human rights.

Italian diplomat Ferdinando Nelli Feroci told Al Jazeera that this temporary emergency measure is mainly a scheme to “transform illegal migration to legal migration”.

“I don’t think this is a problem of violation of human rights. There is a distinction between people that arrive from countries like Afghanistan and Eritrea, where there is a very serious violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Those people have rights for protection and asylum,” he said.

“But the majority coming to Italy’s southern shores are economic migrants. So there is a problem of trying to manage the reception of these migrants, which the emergency scheme seeks to address,” Feroci added.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies