ROME: The Italian island of Lampedusa is struggling to cope after more than 600 migrants landed on its shores in less than 24 hours.
Eight boats carrying 634 people, including a five-month-old baby, from North Africa have arrived at the Mediterranean island, south of Sicily, since early Tuesday, overwhelming migrant facilities and leaving services on the brink of collapse.
More than 380 migrants of various nationalities were crowded onto one fishing boat alone.
“We intercepted a boat at dawn with 85 people on board. A small boat carrying 13 Tunisians landed later, followed by another with 12 men from Morocco and Sudan,” Admiral Roberto Isidori, commander of the Sicilian Coast Guard, told Arab News.
“All those on board were in very bad condition.”
Four other boats carrying at least 100 people reached the island — viewed as a gateway to Europe by migrants — in quick succession.
These groups were in addition to the 442 people who landed on Monday.
Lampedusa’s mayor, Salvatore Martello, told Arab News that almost 1,370 people are now staying at the Imbriacola migrant reception center, a facility designed for 250 occupants.
“The conditions facing migrants are very hard as we are experiencing a heatwave,” he added.
Agrigento authorities have arranged for 100 migrants who have been identified and tested negative for COVID-19 to be transferred by ferry to Porto Empedocle, an industrial port in the south of Sicily.
“From there we will try to send them to other reception centers, although all the facilities in Sicily and Calabria are already full beyond capacity,” Isidori said.
Other migrants could also be transferred on quarantine ships and patrol boats.
“In Lampedusa, the situation is unsustainable, both for the migrants and the local population, which is showing generosity to those people who endured a long, dangerous trip reach the island,” Urania Papatheu, a Forza Italia senator, told Arab News.
“What is happening is intolerable and unacceptable. It’s time for the EU to take action and hear to the calls for help from the Italian government. Enough with words from the EU. The time has come for facts and solidarity — Italy cannot be left alone.”
About 40 migrants from Algeria who landed on the southern coast of Sardinia also have been transferred to the migrant reception center in Monastir where they will be kept in quarantine.