Mediterranean crossings to the Italian island of Lampedusa have nearly doubled this year compared to the same period last year, despite the vessel restrictions imposed by the Italian Prime Minister. Far-right groups in Europe are labeling this surge in arrivals as an ‘invasion’.

Rough seas have bought the Italian island of Lampedusa a moment of calm, but rescue workers are readying for fresh migrant boats, expected as soon as the weather turns.

This tiny tourist destination off the coast of North Africa, famed for its coves and crystalline waters, has become a symbol of boat arrivals, as European states bicker over responsibility for asylum seekers.

Boats used by migrants to cross the Mediterranean Sea are abandoned on the beaches of Lampedusa, a small island south of Sicily, on September 25, 2023. (Tiziana Fabi, AFP)

Almost 8,500 people landed in just three days earlier this month, part of a steep rise in Mediterranean crossings that Europe’s far-right has declared an “invasion”.

As holidaymakers lazed on sunbeds, thousands of migrants bedded down on metal cots set up in and around the reception center, a prefabricated building behind high fences that has room for 400 people.

While most of the migrants who landed recently have already been transferred to the mainland, around a hundred minors who crossed alone are receiving special support.

(Tiziana Fabi, AFP)

Italian far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, elected a year ago on a strongly anti-migrant platform, was forced this weekend to admit that she had hoped to do “better” on stopping boat arrivals.

More than 133,000 people have landed so far this year, compared to nearly 70,000 in the same period last year, despite Meloni’s measures, which have included restricting the efforts of charity rescue ships.

Felix Weiss, from the German charity Sea-Watch, said a law brought in by this government that prevents ships from performing multiple rescues was actually costing lives.

“Since Giorgia Meloni came to power, we have seen the highest number of deaths since 2016, with almost 2,500 people drowning this year in the central Mediterranean,” he told AFP.

“Our ships are blocked in ports, which is incredible when you consider the number of migrants that need to be rescued,” he said.

“The Italian government’s racist migration policy… is failing completely, because the numbers are rising.”

Katrine Dige Houmøller, with AFP