LAMPEDUSA - Almost a thousand migrants arrived on the island of Lampedusa over Easter weekend. Four women were among the arrivals, including one pregnant one, as were four injured men.
The number hosted on the island's reception center and hotspot thus stands at 1,040, compared with a just over 200-person capacity. In order to deal with the latest arrivals, bunk beds have been set up and mattresses have been laid on the floors. The Red Cross, which runs the center, is in charge of the lodgings. During the day and while awaiting transfer to other centers, the guests leave through a hole in the fence and remain in the vicinity.
Over Easter weekend and in part due to good weather conditions, there was a surge in departures from Libya and an enormous amount of work for the ships of the Italian Navy, Coast Guard, EUNAVFOR MED and NGOs: 8,300 migrants have been rescued in three days and 13 corpses have been recovered including one of an eight-year-old boy. NGO ships have been highly active in the rescue efforts in these weeks, after Frontex asked them for more information on their interventions, which might inadvertently help human traffickers despite the good intentions of the humanitarian organizations.
The Phoenix of the Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) took almost 500 migrants onboard from several dinghies that were experiencing difficulties at sea about 20 miles from Libya and recovered seven corpses including one of a child. Including those of the past few days, migrant arrivals in Italy in 2017 now total about 35,000, a significant rose on the same period of the previous year.
Some 181,000 migrants arrived in the country last year. The interior ministry is struggling to distribute the latest arrivals on Lampedusa and in Reggio Calabria, Catania, Cagliari, Porto Empedocle, Augusta and Messina. The migrant reception system is already overflowing with 175,450 people hosted and the plan agreed with the National Association of Italian Municipalities (ANCI) for distribution among all the municipalities is struggling to function correctly amid several mayors refusing to take part. If the trend of arrivals were to continue at the same pace, the government's Economic and Financial Document (DEF) expects expenditure on rescue and reception to rise to 4.6 billion euros (2.7% of GDP), a billion more than last year.