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Von der Leyen heads to Lampedusa as Italy battles migrant surge

Von der Leyen heads to Lampedusa as Italy battles migrant surge

by host

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will travel Sunday to the Italian island of Lampedusa, as the government of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni struggles with a surge in migrant arrivals.

Eric Mamer, the Commission’s chief spokesperson, said on Saturday that von der Leyen is heading to the island on the invitation of Meloni. The Italian leader on Friday vowed to take “extraordinary measures” to curb the influx of migrants to Italy and called on the EU to help with a naval blockade to stop crossings in the Mediterranean Sea.

In a video posted on social media, Meloni promised to take action following a surge of irregular migrant arrivals this week on the Italian island of Lampedusa.

The far-right leader said she wrote to European Council President Charles Michel asking to address migration during an October EU summit and also invited von der Leyen to see conditions on Lampedusa.

“I intend to reiterate a request for an immediate EU mission to block the departure of migrant boats,” Meloni said.

On Saturday, a newborn baby has been found dead on a boat carrying people to Lampedusa during a rescue operation.

The Italian Red Cross said in a statement there were about 3,800 people on the small island as of Friday, with about 2,500 expected to be transferred elsewhere.

The number of people arriving by boat after crossing the Mediterranean has more than doubled this year, to 106,000 so far in 2023, compared to 53,000 over the same period last year, according to government data

The surge — which comes despite the European Commission’s controversial deal with Tunisia in July to stem migration flows to Europe — puts pressure on Meloni, who arrived in power last year with promises to rein in migration.

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