'We want to leave - wherever that might be,' says Cameroon migrant on Lampedusa

By Yara Nardi

LAMPEDUSA (Reuters) - Claudine Nsoe, a 29-year-old mother of two from Cameroon, is one of the thousands of migrants who have arrived this week on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, a first port of call for those crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa.

Nsoe spoke to Reuters while she was camped outside the island's reception centre, which has an official capacity of around 400 but in the last few days has been crammed with as many as 7,000 migrants.

She arrived in Lampedusa on Tuesday, travelling with her children, one just 18 months. The family set off from Libya, where living conditions were "very hard" and the journey took a week.

"I hope the situation improves and they let us leave from here because the living conditions here are not easy. We sleep in the open air, in the sun, and in the cold," Nsoe said while sitting on a camp bed distributed by the Italian Red Cross.

"Therefore we want to leave. Wherever that might be, we must go," she added.

So far this year, Italy has recorded almost 126,000 sea arrivals, almost double the figure from the same period of 2022. The surge is a huge problem for Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's rightist government, which has pledged to control immigration.

The migrants who land in Lampedusa are transferred by ferry, military ship or plane to the larger island of Sicily and from there are spread around the country. Many of them want to reach northern Europe, but are often pushed back at Italy's borders.

Under EU rules, migrants are supposed to file for asylum in the first EU country they reach. So when France or Germany catches migrants found to have been first registered in Italy, they send them back.

Italy has said it can no longer take them in, because it is struggling to deal with new arrivals. Germany, in turn, said this week it would no longer accept migrants from Italy under a voluntary EU redistribution scheme.

(Reporting by Yara Nardi, writing by Alvise Armellini, editing by Gavin Jones and Nick Macfie)