Despite treacherous conditions at sea, record numbers of migrants are setting off from North Africa to reach the European Union. This weekend alone, nearly 5,600 people arrived on Italy’s southern coasts, reported InfoMigrant website.
More than 3,000 migrants arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa in the past two days alone, according to the Italian news agency ANSA.
According to official figures, a total of almost 27,000 boat migrants have now been registered by Italian authorities since the beginning of the year. This is more than four times the number for the same period last year, when 6,543 migrants managed to make their way to Italy using irregular means.
Meanwhile, eight people were reported to have died just before reaching their destination across the Mediterranean on Saturday. Their bodies were recovered by the Italian coast guard and brought to Lampedusa, ANSA reported.
Another 29 migrants drowned after setting off from Tunisia while still in Tunisian waters. Some estimates claim that number could still rise.
According to the UN Migration Agency (IOM), at least 2,836 deaths and disappearances have been documented on the Central Mediterranean route since 2021.
The island of Lampedusa is having the bear the brunt of the recent spike in irregular migration. Mayor Filippo Minnino called for a joint European mission in the Mediterranean to help resolve the situation:
“Europe and Italy must realize that there is a state of emergency in the Mediterranean. Women, children and men continue to die,” the local politician said.
Lampedusa is located less than 190 kilometers from the Tunisian coastal city of Sfax, which is one of the major departure points from North Africa in addition to Libya.