The Italian Coast Guard has found a newborn baby dead on a boat carrying people to Lampedusa, ANSA news agency reported, as dozens of the island’s citizens protested over a recent surge in arrivals.
Nearly 126,000 migrants and refugees have arrived in Italy this year, almost double the figure by the same date in 2022.
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Lampedusa has seen thousands of landings this week alone, more than the island’s permanent population, triggering appeals for help from local politicians.
The Italian Coast Guard said the baby, which was born during the journey, was found during a rescue operation, ANSA reported.
Earlier this week, a five-month-old baby boy drowned during a rescue operation off Lampedusa after a boat carrying migrants and refugees across the sea from North Africa capsized.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will visit the island on Sunday, accepting an invitation from Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, according to an EU official.
Meloni has urged the EU to act to relieve the pressure after thousands of people landed by boats over three days this week on Lampedusa, just 145km (90 miles) off the coast of Tunisia.
The increase in arrivals has reignited the debate over how Europe shares responsibility for asylum seekers.
“President von der Leyen will be travelling to Lampedusa tomorrow on the invitation of Italian PM Meloni,” EU Commission spokesperson Eric Mamer said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.
The interior ministers of France, Germany and Italy and some EU representatives discussed migrant issues during a phone meeting on Saturday, French minister Gerald Darmanin said in a post on X.
Due to its proximity to the Tunisian coastal city of Sfax, Lampedusa has for years been one of the main destinations for people from North Africa seeking to reach European shores. But this week its migration centre, built to house fewer than 400 people, was overwhelmed.
Germany has decided to keep taking in migrants and refugees arriving in Italy, the interior minister said late on Friday, two days after it announced the suspension of a voluntary agreement with Rome to receive new arrivals.
Protests against camps
Dozens of Lampedusa residents held protests on Saturday against a plan to build a new tent camp to host people arriving on boats.
“I have two children at home. In the past years, I did not care about this issue. But now I have an instinct of protection for my children because I don’t know what will happen to Lampedusa in the future,” one of the protesters said.
“Lampedusa says stop! We don’t want tent camps. This message is for Europe and for the Italian government. Lampedusa residents are tired”, another protester said.