The Italian coastguard said that almost 5,900 migrants were saved during the past weekend (6-7 June) from the waters of the Mediterranean. The migrants were brought to safety by an international rescue team consisting of the British, Swedish, Italian, and Spanish vessels and a merchant ship. They were called upon to help 15 different boats attempting to cross the rough Mediterranean seas on Sunday. On Saturday, 3,500 migrants were rescued roughly 45 miles from the Libyan coast. The refugees have reportedly included also 10 pregnant women.
The influx of migrants trying to reach the shores of Europe has been rapidly rising since the beginning of this year, whereby the UN refugee agency estimates that during this period, more than 1,800 migrants have lost their lives. Although the block has intensified its presence in the Mediterranean, Member States are still discussing what to do about the crises. It is not clear how to deal with the migrants who are already ashore.
All rescued refugees are initially taken to Italian port cities, which is causing tensions between the central government in Rome on the one hand, and local governments and opposition parties on the other. Roberto Maroni, President of the Northern League’s Lombardy region, said that he would not allow more migrants in and that he would decrease regional funding to cities that agreed to accept more refugees. The Northern League has been known to be an anti-immigrant party. However, Italy’s Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, reminded Mr Maroni that he was partly accountable for getting the country into an unfair EU treaty requiring asylum seekers to ask for refuge in the country in which they first enter.
EU leadership is going to discuss the treaty on 16 June as well as a plan to distribute approximately 40,000 asylum seekers from Italy and Greece more evenly throughout the block. EU ministers are moreover seeking to review the treaty that Italy and Greece would like to see changed. Prime Minister Renzi stressed that it was simply “unthinkable to continue bringing all migrants to Italy” and warned that “there is an immigration problem. To tackle it, we need the strength and courage to make ourselves heard at European meetings”.