Let’s Tune In To The EU’s periphery: Lampedusa Becomes Ground Zero In Migrant Crisis

Nicholas Zalewski
Migrants arriving on the island of Lampedusa. Source: ANSA

Within 24 hours, 8500 migrants reached the island of Lampedusa by taking 199 boats. In a week, 11,560 people arrived in Lampedusa. Online, this arrival has been characterized as an invasion due to the number of migrants arriving without permission is larger than the island’s permanent population. In 2021, the population of Lampedusa was just under 6500. Lampedusa is the closest point of Italy to Africa, only 110 kilometers from Tunisia.

President of the European Commission, Ursula Von Der Leyen visited Lampedusa to reassure Italian prime Minister Giorgia meloni that the European Union would support Italy. This would include the transfer of asylum seekers voluntarily to other EU member states. Whether European Union member states will willingly help out however is yet to be seen. Several member states have already appeared to be taking a stance against accepting any more migrants from Italy.

Test For Prime Minister Meloni

Italy’s first female Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni included stopping illegal immigration as one of her top priorities when she campaigned in the last election. Making a campaign promise however is very different from actually following through and delivering results. Meloni while campaigning mentioned using naval blockades numerous times in order to stop ships from arriving yet did not do so, angering Italians which is obvious from their comments on posts on Meloni’s profile on X. Meloni’s party, Fratelli d’Italia received 34,2 percent of the vote from the islands of Lampedusa and Linosa, the highest percentage of any political party. Besides frequently being an arrival point of illegal immigration, Residents of Lampedusa will watch Meloni closely due to having trusted her to lead the nation. So far 127,000 people have illegally arrived in Italy since January 1st, double the number of migrants during the same time frame in 2022. For those who have valid asylum claims, arriving in this matter would then not be classified as illegal but it has yet to be seen how valid this is for those who have arrived this year.

People have attempted to claim that Meloni has changed her position on immigration due to looking for 425,000 immigrants from non-EU nations to fill specific jobs. These critics however ignore the clear difference between immigration of workers with permission and the skills necessary for open jobs and people attempting to enter Italy without permission. Part of this may be due to attempts to paint everyone arriving illegally as asylum seekers, despite asylum status requiring specific conditions in order to be granted. The desire for more economic opportunities is not an acceptable motive for someone to be granted asylum. An example is immigrants from Kyrgyzstan being granted visas to work in the island region of Sardegna in order to help with horse breeding and goat and sheep cheese production.

French infographic explaining the Dublin procedure, yet applicable for all EU member states.

France And Germany Refuse To Accept More Migrants

France and Germany have both made it clear that migrants that arrived on Lampedusa will not be accepted in either nation. Pope Francis is expected to make comments on France refusing to be more welcoming, yet this is easier said than done given the EU member state’s struggles the past few years. Similar to nations around the world, France has struggled economically due to lock downs attempting to stop the spread of Covid-19, and inflation that resulted from the pandemic along with the invasion of Ukraine which saw EU nations scrambling to find alternative energy sources other than Russia.   

Germany on the other hand made it clear it would not accept more migrants, despite originally agreeing to previously. When France and Germany refuse to help with receiving migrants, resentment grows in Southern EU member states who continue to be burdened by illegal immigration. This is because Italy was not honoring its obligation to register all immigrants that arrive there, as required by the Dublin procedure. This allows migrants to be returned to the EU member state of arrival later on if the member state the migrants traveled to desire to do so. As Italy correctly has pointed out however, this unjustly burdens border member states, who tend to be less economically developed than nations such as Germany. 

Regional GDP per capita map of the European Union highlights the drastically regional difference in GDP per capita in Italy.
Source: Eurostat

Italian Domestic Crises

Apart from the migration crisis, Italy has been struggling with other issues that have been weighing heavily on the nation for years. The government still needs to continue to work to reduce the national debt, improve economic conditions for citizens which has sent the fertility rate in a death spiral and an increase once again in emigration, and finally also address the regional economic inequality that continues to persist. Every euro Italy must spend on processing asylum applications and deporting those who do not have the right to remain in Italy or the European Union is a euro deprived from helping Italian citizens. Hours spent by Italian politicians on curbing illegal immigration is also time that these politicians will never get back in an attempt to solve the aforementioned important domestic issues. 


Wealthier nations in the European Union need to step up and do their part in responding to the migration crisis. The European Union also needs to do more to support member states with processing new arrivals and deporting migrants who do not qualify for asylum. While it is understandable many people may desire to immigrate to the European Union for more economic opportunities, the European Union and national governments need to prioritize their own citizens. If they do not, no other government will. Poverty continues to be a challenge throughout the bloc and these citizens cannot be ignored for those who chose to attempt to immigrate to the European Union in an illegal manner. 

Please Read The Following For More Information: 

Borrelli, Silvia. “Italy turns to Kyrgyz shepherds to revive Sardinian farming”. Financial Times. 19 September 2023.

“EU chief vows new migrant help for Italy after Lampedusa surge”. Times of Malta. 17 September 2023.

“Emigrazioni dall’Italia e Italiani residenti all’estero”.  Italia in Dati.

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  1. Pingback: Let’s Tune In To The EU’s Periphery: Italy To Build Migrant Detention Centers In Albania - The New Global Order

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Let’s Tune In To The EU…

by Nicholas Zalewski time to read: 4 min