The arrivals have put pressure on Meloni, who came into power as head of a right-wing government last year promising to crack down on migration. With a European Parliament election next year, Meloni’s conservative coalition partner, the League party, has increased criticism of the EU-Tunisia deal, saying the increasing numbers of migrants showed it clearly had failed.
Meloni proposed a series of measures to crack down on migrants and traffickers that she said would be tabled at an upcoming Cabinet meeting. She warned would-be refugees that they would be detained and repatriated if they come illegally.
“Our situation doesn’t allow us to do any differently,” she said.
League leader Matteo Salvini is due to host French far-right leader Marine Le Pen at a rally this weekend in his northern home base of Pontida. On Friday, Le Pen’s niece, French far-right politician Marion Marechal, was on Lampedusa to show her support to Italy, which she said had been abandoned by Europe to deal with migrants on its own.
“I came to support the Italian people and government, because Lampedusa today and the Italian borders are the borders of the whole of Europe,” Marechal told Italian reporters.
“We have to change EU policy to help the Italian government, which today is alone in facing this crisis.”
According to Interior Ministry statistics, nearly 126,000 people have arrived in Italy so far by boat this year compared to 66,000 this time last year and 42,000 in 2021.
If the trend continues, this year could be on track to near the record in 2016, when by the end of September about 132,000 migrants had arrived. The year 2016 holds the recent record for migrant sea arrivals, with a total of 181,000 people.