Italy's Meloni convenes public safety body over migrant arrivals

Migrants arrive in Lampedusa

By Alvise Armellini

ROME (Reuters) -Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said on Monday she was convening a ministerial panel for national security to improve her government's response to a surge in migrant arrivals.

Italy has been struggling to accommodate arrivals from North Africa and the Balkans and the country's Red Cross called on Monday for more international efforts against migration "chaos".

Meloni said after a cabinet meeting she had activated the Inter-ministerial Committee for the Security of the Republic (CISR), which would remain in permanent operation in order to address the spike in arrivals.

"Our aim is to tackle the problem in a pragmatic way, with rapid and coordinated decisions," Meloni, who has made the fight against illegal immigration a cornerstone of her political career, said in a statement.

Lampedusa island, Italy's southernmost outpost, had more than 4,200 migrants on Sunday after more than 110 weekend boat arrivals, local police chief Emanuele Ricifari told Reuters.

He said that despite the "record numbers", the authorities were in control of the situation.

In Trieste, near the border with Slovenia, Mayor Roberto Dipiazza was less sanguine as he complained to the Corriere della Sera daily about an unprecedented "invasion of migrants".

"I have been dealing with problems related to migrants since the 1990s, I have seen everything and more, but I could not imagine such a thing. The city is in an emergency," he said.

Italy has recorded around 113,500 sea arrivals in the year to date, compared with around 55,800 in the same period last year, according to interior ministry data.

The statistics showed a spike over the last three days, with about 2,300 arrivals on Friday, more than 3,000 on Saturday, and almost 1,000 on Sunday.


In Lampedusa, incoming sea migrants are crammed in a so-called "hotspot" with an official capacity of a few hundred places, before being transferred to the larger island of Sicily.

The facility is routinely overcrowded, with Italian news agencies reporting on Monday that it was hosting nearly 3,600 migrants.

The Italian Red Cross (CRI) took over the running of the facility on June 1, replacing a cooperative that had been criticised for failing to provide adequate care.

"I hope that not only Italy ... but the whole European and international community will be able to respond effectively and not give in to chaos," CRI President Rosario Valastro said on Facebook.

The Italian government has restricted the activities of charity rescue ships, impounding three of their vessels last week.

But with the country facing a shrinking population and labour force shortages, it has also raised entry quotas for non-EU migrant workers to 452,000 for 2023-2025 from around 83,000 in 2022.

On Monday, 56 NGOs issued a joint statement accusing the Rome government of hindering the work of sea rescue charities, and warned this could lead many, if not all of them, to suspend their operations, putting lives at risk.

(Reporting by Alvise Armellini; Additional reporting by Gavin Jones; Editing by Alison Williams)