Fifteen boats packed with hundreds of migrants landed on the southern Italian island of Lampedusa on Sunday (9 May), and officials said they were expecting numbers to increase as the weather improved.
More than 1,400 people got off the vessels at the Mediterranean island, one of the main landing points for people trying to get into Europe, ANSA news agency said.
“Migrants arrivals are resuming alongside good weather,” Lampedusa’s mayor Toto Martello told state broadcaster RAI. “We need to restart discussions about the immigration issue.”
Around 11,000 migrants disembarked on Italy’s coasts from the start of 2021 to 7 May, up from 4,105 in the same period last year, interior ministry data shows.
Overall numbers are still down from 2015, when hundreds of thousands of migrants made the perilous sea crossing to Europe, many of them fleeing poverty and conflict across Africa and the Middle East.
But the issue still sharply divides European governments and has fuelled anti-immigration sentiment and parties across the continent.
Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy’s far-right League party, called on Prime Minister Mario Draghi to tackle the issue.
“With millions of Italians facing difficulties, we cannot care for thousands of illegal migrants,” he wrote on Twitter.
Some of the boats were intercepted off the coast of Lampedusa by the Italian tax police, who deal with financial crime and smuggling, ANSA said.
About 400 migrants of various nationalities got off one of the boats, a drifting fishing vessel, ANSA reported.
Another boat carrying 325 people was intercepted eight miles off Lampedusa, the agency added. Other migrants reached Lampedusa coast aboard smaller vessels.
All migrants have been moved to the so-called “hot spot”, the island migrant centre.