June 23. 2024. 1:47

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Italy declares state of emergency amid migration influx

Italy declared a nationwide state of emergency on Tuesday for the next six months following the exceptional increase in migrants continuously arriving via the Mediterranean routes.

On Tuesday, the Council of Ministers led by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni (FDI/ECR) declared a national state of emergency on immigration after the Civil Protection and Sea Policies Minister Nello Musumeci proposed it. The decision also comes after a meeting between Musumeci and Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi.

The state of emergency will be financed with an initial €5 million in funding.

“Let’s be clear. The problem is not solved, the solution to which is linked only to a conscious and responsible intervention by the European Union”, Musumeci said after the government decided on the state of emergency.

“There is a condition of absolute emergency. It is not a new fact (…) It is a problem destined not to be exhausted for at least the next ten years”, the minister told Radio Anch’io, stressing the need to “neutralise the mafia of the scapegoats”.

Last February, the Italian parliament approved the so-called ‘Code of Conduct for NGOs’ – a government decree establishing a code of conduct for ships intervening to rescue migrants – despite criticism from the UN and humanitarian groups.

Migration flows in recent months have strained State structures, according to Musumeci, who called for a “responsible approach” towards migrants and their rights.

In particular, the minister highlighted the difficulty in managing the flows arriving at the islands – Lampedusa and the entire southern coast of Sicily – areas where first reception hotspots are constantly collapsing.

The Easter weekend was busy for national authorities, with boats breaking down and migrants at sea whereby about 2,000 people were rescued, and rescue operations are underway for another 1,200. Coast Guard and Frontex air assets participate in Search and Rescue (SAR) operations.

“Rescue operations are still ongoing in the Ionian Sea”, the Coast Guard tweeted on Tuesday, referring to two barges – one with 800 and the other with 400 migrants on board – intercepted more than 100 miles southeast of Sicily. The two boats were escorted toward the coast due to prohibitive weather conditions.

According to Interior Ministry data, 31,292 migrants landed between 1 January and 11 April. During the same period in the previous two years, arrivals were significantly lower: 7,928 in 2022 and 8,505 in 2021.

(Federica Pascale | EURACTIV.it)