Published by Joint press release | 18 / Sep / 2023

Arrivals in Lampedusa - Solidarity and resistance in the face of the reception crisis in Europe.

Following the arrival of a record number of migrants on Lampedusa, civil society expresses its deep concern at the response of European states to the security and reception crisis and reiterates its solidarity with migrants arriving in Europe.

More than 5,000 people and 112 boats: this is the number of arrivals recorded on the Italian island of Lampedusa on Tuesday 12 September. The boats, most of which arrived independently, came from Tunisia or Libya. In total, more than 118,500 people have arrived on Italian shores since the beginning of the year, almost double the 64,529 recorded in the same period last year¹. The accumulation of numbers should not make us forget that behind every number there is a human being, an individual story, and that people continue to lose their lives trying to reach Europe.

Although Lampedusa has long been a destination for boats carrying hundreds of people seeking refuge in Europe, the island's reception facilities are inadequate. On Tuesday, a five-month-old baby died after falling into the water and immediately drowning during a chaotic boat rescue, as dozens of boats continued to dock at the commercial port. Hundreds of people were stranded on the pier for several hours, without water or food, before being transferred to the Lampedusa hotspot.

The hotspot, a first filtering centre where new arrivals are kept away and separated from the local population and pre-identified before being transferred to the mainland, with its 389 places, has no capacity to decently accommodate the people arriving on the island every day. Since Tuesday, the centre's staff have been completely overwhelmed by the presence of 6,000 people. Staff from the Red Cross and other organisations have been prevented from entering the centre for 'security reasons'.

On Thursday morning, many people began to flee the hotspot by jumping over fences because of the inhuman situation they were experiencing. Meanwhile, in the face of the inability of the Italian authorities to provide a decent reception, local solidarity took over. Many residents mobilised to organise food distributions for those who had taken refuge in the city².

Several organisations also denounced the political crisis in Tunisia and the humanitarian emergency in the city of Sfax, from where most of the boats to Italy leave. Around 500 people are currently sleeping in the Beb Jebli square, with almost no access to food or medical care³. Most of them have been forced to flee from Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Chad, Eritrea or Niger. Following racist remarks by Tunisian President Kais Saied, many migrants have been evicted from their homes and jobs⁴. Others were deported to the desert, where some died of thirst.

While these mass deportations continue and the situation in Sfax continues to deteriorate, three months ago the EU agreed a new migration agreement with the Tunisian government to 'cooperate more effectively on migration', border management and 'anti-smuggling' measures, with a budget of more than 100 million euros. The EU accepted this new agreement in full knowledge of the atrocities committed by the Tunisian government, including attacks by the Tunisian coastguard on migrant boats⁵.

Meanwhile, we watch with concern as various European governments close their doors and fail to respect asylum laws and the most basic human rights. While the French interior minister has announced his intention to tighten controls at the Italian border, several other EU member states have also declared their intention to close their doors. In August, the German authorities decided to stop screening asylum seekers arriving in Germany from Italy under the 'voluntary solidarity mechanism'⁶.

Invited by Prime Minister Meloni to Lampedusa on Sunday, the President of the European Commission, Ms von der Leyen, announced a 10-point action plan that confirms this securitarian response. Strengthening controls at sea to the detriment of the obligation to rescue, increasing the pace of expulsions and intensifying the process of externalising borders... all old recipes that the European Union has been applying for decades and which have proved unsuccessful, aggravating the crisis of solidarity and the situation of people on the move.

The undersigned organisations call for an open and welcoming Europe and urge EU Member States to provide safe and legal routes and decent reception conditions. We call for urgent action to be taken in Lampedusa and for international laws protecting the right to asylum to be respected. We are shocked by the continued deaths at sea caused by EU border policies and reiterate our solidarity with people on the move!

Footnote:

¹ Reuters, “Italy’s Lampedusa island hit with record migrant arrivals”, 12 September 2023,

https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/italys-lampedusa-island-hit-with-record-migrant-arrivals-2023-09-12/

² Maldusa, “Lampedusa’s Hotspot System: From Failure to Nonexistence”, 14 September 2023 https://www.maldusa.org/l/lampedusas-hotspot-system-from-failure-to-nonexistence/

³ Déclaration “Urgence humanitaire au Gouvernorat de Sfax : la société civile tire la sonnette d’alarme face à une situation inacceptable”, 14 September 2023

https://euromedrights.org/publication/urgence-humanitaire-au-gouvernorat-de-sfax-la-societe-civile-tire-la-sonnette-dalarme-face-a-une-situation-inacceptable/

⁴ Migration-control.info-project, “Mass deportations and EU externalisation in Tunisia: Press Review and Critics”, 2 August 2023

https://migration-control.info/en/blog/mass-deportations-and-eu-externalisation-in-tunisia-overview-press-review-and-critics/

⁵ Alarm Phone, “Deadly policies in the Mediterranean: Stop the shipwrecks caused off the coast of Tunisia”, 19 December 2022, https://alarmphone.org/en/2022/12/19/deadly-policies-in-the-mediterranean/

⁶ La Repubblica, ” Migranti, da Berlino stop ad accoglienza dei richiedenti asilo dall’Italia”, 12 September 2023

https://www.repubblica.it/cronaca/2023/09/12/news/migranti_da_berlino_stop_ad_accoglienza_dei_richiedenti_asilo_dallitalia-414254801/?ref=RHLF-BG-I414254188-P2-S1-T1

⁷ European Commission, “Press statement by President von der Leyen with Italian Prime Minister Meloni in Lampedusa”, 17 September 2023

https://ec.europa.eu/commission/pres

Signing organizations:

Afrique-Europe-Interact

Alarme Phone Sahara (APS)

Alarme Phone Sahara - Mali

Alternative Espaces Citoyen - Niger

Anafé (association nationale d'assistance aux frontières pour les personnes étrangères)

Another Europe is Possible

ARCOM - association des réfugiés et communautés migrantes au Maroc

Are You Syrious?

Associazione studi giuridici sull'immigrazione (ASGI) 

Association AFRIQUE INTELLIGENCE

Association Beity

Association d'aide des Migrants en Situation Vulnérable (AMSV) Oujda / Maroc

Association des Etudiants et Stagiaires Africains en Tunisie (AESAT)

Association Féministe Tanit

Association Lina Ben Mhenni

Association de solidarité avec les travailleurS/euses immigré.es (ASTI) des Ulis / France

Association pour la promotion du droit à la différence (ADD)

Association pour les Migrants-AMI, Nîmes, France

Association Sentiers-Massarib

Association Tunisienne de défense des libertés individuelles (ADLI)

Association Tunisienne pour les droits et les libertés (ADL)

Aswat Nissa

Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF)

Association Damj 

BELREFUGEES, Plateforme Citoyenne / Belgium

borderline-europe- Menschenrechte ohne Grenzen

Boza Fii - Sénégal 

CCFD-Terre Solidaire 

CGTM Mauritanie

Chkoun Collective

Coalition des Associations Humanitaires de Médenine

Collectif Droit de Rester, Lausanne

Comité de Vigilance pour la Démocratie en Tunisie - Belgique

Comité pour le respect des libertés et des droits de l’homme en Tunisie (CRLDHT)

CompassCollective

Connexion

Damj l'association tunisienne de la justice et légalité

DZ Fraternité

Emmaüs Europe

European Alternatives 

Fédération des tunIsiens citoyens des deux rives (FTCR) 

Groupe de Recherche et d'Actions sur les Migrations (GRAM), Bamako / Mali

Groupe d'information et de soutien des immigré.e.s (Gisti)

iuventa-crew

Jeunesse Nigérienne au service du Développement Durable (JNSDD) - Agadez / Niger

Komitee für Grundrechte und Demokratie e.V.

La Cimade 

La coalition tunisienne contre la peine de la mort

LasciateCIEntrare 

Ligue Algérienne pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme (LADDH)

Ligue des droits de l’Homme (LDH) - France

Ligue tunisienne des droits de l’homme (LTDH)

Maldusa

medico international 

MEDITERRANEA Saving Humans

Mem.med:mémoire Méditerranée 

Migrants’ Rights Network

migration-control.info project

Migreurop

MV Louise Michel

Paris d’Exil

Pro-Asyl

Push-Back Alarm Austria

r42-SailAndRescue

Refugees in Libya 

Refugees in Tunisia 

ResQ - People Saving People 

RESQSHIP

Salvamento Marítimo Humanitario (SMH)

Sea-Watch

Seebrücke - Schafft sichere Häfen 

Solidarité sans frontières (Sosf)

SOS Balkanroute

SOS Humanity

Statewatch

Tunisian Forum for Social and Economic Rights (FTDES) 

Union des travailleurs immigrés tunisiens (UTIT)

United4Rescue 

Vivre Ensemble | asile.ch

Watch the Med Alarm Phone 

Welcome to Europe network 

Zusammenland gUG/ MARE*GO

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