French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin arrived in Rome on Monday evening, where he plans to deliver a message of “firmness” in the face of illegal crossings of the Mediterranean, after the influx of migrants on the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Mr. Darmanin arrived shortly before 7:30 p.m. at the Italian Interior Ministry to meet his counterpart Matteo Piantedosi, noted an AFP photographer.

“At the request of the president (Emmanuel Macron) I am going to Rome” to offer help to Italy to “hold its external border”, the first gateway to Europe from North Africa , he declared Monday on Europe1/Cnews media.

Between last Monday and Wednesday, around 8,500 people, more than the entire population of Lampedusa, arrived aboard 199 boats, according to the United Nations migration agency.

This situation has put the island’s reception capacities under great strain, generated a political shock wave in Italy and relaunched the thorny question of European solidarity in terms of reception and distribution of asylum seekers, for support countries on the front line of these arrivals.

“There cannot be a message given to people who come to our (European) soil that they will be welcomed whatever happens,” however, underlined Gérald Darmanin, who wants to demonstrate “firmness”.

“We must apply European rules,” he added: France will be able to “welcome” people persecuted “for political reasons.” But in “60%” of cases, they “come from countries like Ivory Coast, Guinea, Gambia”, where “there is no humanitarian question”.

“We must protect the external borders of the European Union and above all immediately look at asylum applications and, when they are not eligible, send them back to their country,” he said.

A message to the right-wing and far-right Italian government, whose leader Giorgia Meloni criticized its European partners on Sunday for lacking solidarity with Italy, which has welcomed nearly 130,000 people into its territory since the start of the year, almost double compared to 2022 over the same period.

In Paris, we see that Rome has not at this stage requested a distribution of migrants and we want to convince Ms. Meloni to examine asylum requests in Italy while putting pressure on the Tunisians to better control departures. .

Without waiting for a European response, the Italian government approved on Monday new measures intended to stem arrivals, in particular by creating more detention centers for migrants whose asylum applications have been rejected and by increasing the maximum duration of this confinement, passing from four to eighteen months.

Coming to Lampedusa on Sunday, the President of the European Commission Ursula Von der Leyen presented an emergency plan.

This ten-point aid plan, intended to manage the emergency of migratory flows towards Italy, plans to better distribute asylum seekers between European countries or even to facilitate returns.

It is supposed to combine firmness against smugglers and facilitation of legal channels of entry into the European area for candidates for exile eligible for asylum.

The European partners of Italy, the first country of entry into the EU on this migratory route, must take their part, said the President of the European Commission on Sunday.

“The answer must be found in cooperation between Europeans” and “between Europeans with Tunisia,” the head of French diplomacy, Catherine Colonna, told the United Nations on Monday.

“Old recipes that the European Union has been rehashing for decades and which have all failed,” more than 80 associations, including sea rescue NGOs, lamented in a joint statement on Monday.

“It is the nations that decide (who enters, editor’s note) and it cannot be the European Union,” criticized Marine Le Pen, president of the National Rally (RN) group in the National Assembly, on TF1 by calling for the erection of “a legal wall” against immigration.

In France, the authorities anticipate a massive influx of migrants at the Italian border, after recent arrivals, and are seeking to provide themselves with a “space” of one hundred additional detention places at the border police premises in Menton.

The central Mediterranean is the most dangerous maritime migration route in the world: more than 2,000 migrants have died there since the start of the year, according to the international organization for migration.

18/09/2023 22:56:41 –         Paris (AFP) –         © 2023 AFP