Amid migration crisis, Italy set to pass stricter measures on arrivals

Last week, almost 10,000 people arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Migrants gather in Italy
Migrants gather at a reception centre ahead of a visit by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni to the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, [Yara Nardi/Reuters]

Italy will pass measures to extend the length of time refugees and migrants can be held, in an attempt to ensure those the state says have no right to stay are repatriated, officials said.

Monday’s move comes as the country is facing a migration crisis, with almost 10,000 people having landed on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa last week.

The soaring levels of arrivals come as a blow to Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who vowed to curb irregular migration.

In a move to try to keep that pledge, the government will lengthen the time people awaiting repatriation can be detained from three months to up to 18 months.

Ministers will also approve the creation of more detention centres in isolated areas.

Under Italian law, people facing repatriation can be held if they cannot be immediately expelled.

According to government data, this year, more than 127,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in Italy, double the 2022 figure for the same period.

Officials say most go to Italy for economic reasons and, therefore, are not eligible for asylum.

But Rome only has repatriation agreements with some countries, and even when bilateral deals are in place, it can still take months to send people home.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni visit the port where migrants arrive on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, Italy [Yara Nardi/Reuters]

The think-tank Openpolis reports that only 20 percent of those given a repatriation order left the country between 2014 and 2020.

In April, the Italian parliament approved measures to create new migrant centres for people waiting to hear the outcome of asylum applications and more detention facilities for those facing expulsion.

In the package, the government set aside 20 million euros ($21.34m) over two years.

Past efforts to hold migrants have largely failed, with those detained repeatedly breaking out of the centre and often heading to wealthier northern European countries.

On Sunday, Meloni visited Lampedusa with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and asked Brussels to do more to help.

Von der Leyen promised a 10-point European Union action plan to relieve the pressure, but the measures appeared similar to previous initiatives that have yet to make much impact.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said he would visit Rome on Monday to discuss migration and said France wants to “help Italy to secure its borders”.

“We have to protect the EU’s external border and, above all, look into asylum requests immediately and send people back to their country when they’re not eligible,” he said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies