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Italy Considers Immigration Crackdown As Migrants Overwhelm Tiny Island

Italy’s government is considering “extraordinary measures” to crackdown on migration after one of the country’s small islands was overwhelmed by thousands of migrants in just one day, the Associated Press reported on Monday.

Lampedusa, a small island off the coast of Italy with a resident population of 6,300, was overwhelmed last week after almost 7,000 migrants arrived by hundreds of boats from Tunisia in one day. The Italian cabinet met on Monday to discuss a number of measures to throttle further waves of migration, as the country has taken in a total of 124,000 migrants this year, nearly double than the number of incoming migrants from the previous year, according to the AP.

Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni called for a naval blockade surrounding North Africa to stop human traffickers from smuggling migrants through the Mediterranean sea, according to the AP. Among the other potential measures discussed was an extension on the amount of time migrants can be detained in the European Union (EU) to an 18-month maximum, as well as an increase in the number of detention centers to hold them until they can be sent back.

Lampedusa’s sudden migrant surge has raised alarm to the EU as Italy works to jettison migrants off the island by ferry to Sicily and surrounding ports, according to the AP. Meloni and Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited Lampedusa on Sunday and underscored the need for Italy to protect its border and be the sole decider as to who comes into the country.

“If anyone thinks that this crisis we are facing could be just resolved within Italian borders, it would be a very big mistake, because this problem involves everyone and needs to be tackled by everyone,” Meloni said, according to the Guardian. “I continue to say that we will never resolve it by talking only about redistribution [of migrants] – the only way to resolve it is to stop departures.”

“We will decide who comes to the European Union, and under what circumstances. Not the smugglers,” von der Leyen said, according to the AP.

von der Leyen previously signed a deal to provide “equipment, training and technical support” to Tunisia for border protection, and the measures discussed Monday would include an “arrangement” with the country to throttle human smugglers in the Mediterranean, according to the AP. The French government said on Monday it would help Italy deal with the crisis but noted that it couldn’t take in migrants from Lampedusa.

“Things are getting very difficult in Lampedusa. That’s why we should help our Italian friends. But there should not be a message given to people coming on our soil that they are welcomed in our countries no matter what,” interior minister Gerald Darmanin said on Monday. “Our will is to fully welcome those who should be welcomed, but we should absolutely send back those who have no reason to be in Europe.”

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