PARIS – France will not welcome any migrants coming from Italy’s Lampedusa, interior minister Gerald Darmanin said on Tuesday, after the Mediterranean island saw record numbers of arrivals.
Some 8,500 people arrived on Lampedusa on 199 boats between Monday and Wednesday last week, according to the UN’s International Organisation for Migration – prompting European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen to travel there on Sunday to announce an emergency action plan.
According to Mr Darmanin, Paris told Italy it was “ready to help them return people to countries with which we have good diplomatic relations”, giving the example of Ivory Coast and Senegal.
But France “will not welcome migrants” from the island, he said, speaking on French television on Tuesday evening.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has called on Italy’s EU partners to share more of the responsibility.
The recent arrivals on Lampedusa equal more than the whole population of the tiny Italian island.
The mass movement has stoked the immigration debate in France, where political parties in the country’s hung parliament are wrangling over a draft law governing new arrivals.
France is expected to face a call from Pope Francis for greater tolerance towards migrants later this week during a high-profile visit to Mediterranean city Marseille, where the pontiff will meet President Emmanuel Macron and celebrate mass before tens of thousands in a stadium. AFP