Italy: Almost 80,000 asylum seekers pass through Lampedusa since June

Rome: The Italian Red Cross says it has processed more than 78,000 migrants from approximately 1,900 boat landings on the island of Lampedusa since June 1 this year.

The organization took over operation of the island’s migrant reception center from the government this summer after widespread criticism of the facility. According to reports, migrants were forced to use flooded bathrooms and sleep on dirty mattresses out in the open due to overcrowding.

In a statement, the Italian Red Cross acknowledged that there had been “critical” moments due to days when multiple migrant boats arrived simultaneously. However, it also said its 100 volunteers and staff had been able to provide “a welcome characterized by the dignity of people.”

Located off the coast of Tunisia but officially on Italian soil, Lampedusa is a regular target for migrant boats departing from the north African coast.

As the Italian Red Cross released its latest figures on migrant arrivals over the weekend, Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni hosted talks with her UK counterpart Rishi Sunak in Rome. The two leaders agreed to jointly fund a project in Tunisia to assist the “voluntary return of migrants to their countries of origin,” according to a statement from the UK Prime Minister’s office.

Meloni also admitted that her coalition government could have done “better” in relation to cutting illegal migration levels. According to data from the United Nations, more than 150,000 migrants have arrived in Italy by sea so far this year.

During his visit to Rome, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also delivered a speech on illegal migration at a right-wing political festival organized by Meloni’s Brothers of Italy party.

“If we do not tackle this problem, the numbers will only grow. It will overwhelm our countries and our capacity to help those who actually need our help the most,” said Sunak. “If that requires us to update our laws and lead an international conversation to amend the post-war frameworks around asylum, then we must do that,” added the UK leader.