UN refugee agency urges relocation of migrants from Lampedusa Island

The United Nations refugee agency stressed on Friday the urgency of relocating the thousands of migrants who have recently arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa due to its limited resources.

Approximately 7,000 migrants reached the shores of the small island within a span of two days, leading to appeals for assistance from Italy.

Authorities have coordinated certain transfers to the larger island of Sicily in an effort to alleviate the situation, a measure that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) anticipates will persist in the days ahead.

“It’s imperative to move people off the island because the resources there, the capacity is so limited,” said UNHCR spokesperson Matthew Saltmarsh.

Saltmarsh said the migrants arriving were traumatised, exhausted and in need of food, shelter and medical care.

Pinpointing a singular factor behind this recent surge in migrant arrivals on Lampedusa is challenging, as stated by Saltmarsh.

The surge in migrant arrivals on Lampedusa could be attributed to several factors, including calm sea conditions, economic and social upheaval in Tunisia and Libya along the Mediterranean, as well as the conflict in Sudan.

“It can’t just be on those frontline states like Italy that receive the initial arrivals to have to accommodate them for the longer term … We think that now’s the time for other countries, other states, other regions to try to support the Italians and to support the people of Lampedusa.”

Saltmarsh emphasized the need for European countries to establish a collective plan for distributing the responsibility of accommodating recognized refugees.

“In that case we’re talking about refugees, those people who have asylum claims that are valid and that are confirmed and that have the right under international law to stay,” he said.

Lampedusa, with a population of slightly over 6,000, is situated in the Mediterranean Sea close to Tunisia, Malta, and Sicily. It serves as the initial destination for many migrants attempting to reach the European Union.

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