Arrivals in Lampedusa: Solidarity and resistance in the face of the reception crisis in Europe!

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September 18, 2023

Joint statement signed by Statewatch and more than 80 other organizations: Following the arrival of a record number of people on the move in Lampedusa, civil society expresses its deep concern about the security response of European states, to the crisis of welcome, and reaffirms its solidarity with people on the move arriving in Europe.

Arrivals in Lampedusa: Solidarity and resistance in the face of the reception crisis in Europe! 1
People outside the crowded hotspot of Lampedusa, September 14, 2023. Image: Maldusa

More than 5,000 people and 112 boats: this is the number of arrivals recorded on the Italian island of Lampedusa on Tuesday September 12. The boats, most of which arrived independently, came from Tunisia or Libya. In total, more than 118,500 people have reached Italian shores since the start of the year, almost double the 64,529 recorded during the same period in 2022. [1] The accumulation of figures does not make us forget that, behind each number, there is a human being, an individual story and that people still lose their lives trying to reach Europe.

Although Lampedusa has long been a destination for boats of hundreds of people seeking refuge in Europe, the reception infrastructure on the island is lacking. On Tuesday, the chaotic rescue of a boat caused the death of a 5-month-old baby, who fell into the water and immediately drowned, while dozens of boats continued to dock in the commercial port . For several hours, hundreds of people were stranded on the pier, without water or food, before being transferred to the Lampedusa hotspot.

The hotspot, a triage center where those who have just arrived are kept away from the local population and pre-identified before being transferred to the continent, with its 389 places, has no capacity to adequately accommodate the people arriving on the island daily. Since Tuesday, the center’s staff has been completely overwhelmed by the presence of 6,000 people. The Red Cross and staff from other organizations were not allowed to enter the facility for “security reasons.”

On Thursday morning, many people started escaping from the hotspot by jumping fences due to the inhumane situation there. In the meantime, faced with the inability of the Italian authorities to provide a dignified welcome, local solidarity took over. Many residents mobilized to organize food distributions for those who found refuge in the city. [2]

Furthermore, various organizations also denounce the political crisis in Tunisia as well as the humanitarian emergency in the city of Sfax, from where most boats leave for Italy. Currently, around 500 people are sleeping in Beb Jebli Square, with virtually no access to food or medical assistance. [3] Most were forced to flee Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Chad, Eritrea or Niger. Since Tunisian President Kais Saied’s racist statements, many migrants have been expelled from their homes and jobs. [4] Others were deported to the desert where some died of thirst.

As these mass expulsions continue and the situation in Sfax continues to deteriorate, the EU concluded a new migration agreement three months ago with the Tunisian government in order to cooperate “more effectively on migration”, management borders 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 perpetrated by the Tunisian government, including attacks by the Tunisian coast guard on migrant boats. [5]

Meanwhile, we are watching with concern how different European governments are closing their doors and failing to respect asylum laws and the most fundamental human rights. While the French interior minister announced plans to tighten controls at the Italian border, several other EU member states also said they would close their doors. In August, German authorities decided to stop the selection processes for asylum seekers arriving in Germany from Italy under the “voluntary solidarity mechanism”. [6]

Invited on Sunday to Lampedusa by Prime Minister Meloni, the President of the European Commission Von der Leyen announced a 10-point action plan which confirms this security response. [7] Strengthening controls at sea to the detriment of the rescue obligation, accelerating the pace of expulsions and accelerating the process of externalization of borders… all old recipes that the European Union has been implementing for decades and which have proven their failure , only worsening the crisis of solidarity and the situation of people on the move.

The undersigned organizations call for an open and welcoming Europe and urge EU member states to provide safe and legal pathways and dignified reception conditions. We demand that urgent action be taken in Lampedusa and that international laws that protect the right to asylum be respected. We are devastated by the continued deaths at sea caused by EU border policies and reaffirm our solidarity with those on the move!

Sahara Telephone Alarm (APS)
Alarm Phone Sahara – Mali
Alternative Citizen Spaces – Niger
Anafé (national association of border assistance for foreigners)
Another Europe is possible
ARCOM – association of refugees and migrant communities in Morocco
Are you serious ?
Association for Legal Studies on Immigration (ASGI)
Béité Association
Association to Help Migrants in Vulnerable Situations (AMSV) Oujda / Morocco
Association of African Students and Trainees in Tunisia (AESAT) Tanit Feminist Association
Lina Ben Mhenni Association
Association of solidarity with immigrant workers (ASTI) of Ulis / France
Association for the Promotion of the Right to Difference (ADD)
Association for Migrants-AMI, Nîmes, France
Association Trails-Massarib
Tunisian Association for the Defense of Individual Liberties (ADLI) Tunisian Association for Rights and Freedoms (ADL)
Aswat Nissa
Lawyers Without Borders (ASF)
Damj Association
BELREFUGEES, Citizen Platform / Belgium
borderline-europe- Menschenrechte ohne Grenzen
Boza Fii – Senegal
CCFD-Terre Solidaire
CGTM Mauritania
Chkoun Collective
Coalition of Humanitarian Associations of Medenine
Right to Stay Collective, Lausanne
Vigilance Committee for Democracy in Tunisia – Belgium
Committee for the respect of freedoms and human rights in Tunisia (CRLDHT)
Damj the Tunisian association of justice and legality
DZ Fraternity Emmaüs Europe European Alternatives
Federation of Tunisian citizens of both shores (FTCR)
Group for Research and Action on Migration (GRAM), Bamako / Mali
Information and support group for immigrants (Gisti)
iuventa crew
Nigerien Youth serving Sustainable Development (JNSDD) – Agadez / Niger
Komitee für Grundrechte und Demokratie eV
La Cimade
The Tunisian coalition against the death penalty
Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights (LADDH)
League for Human Rights (LDH) – France
Tunisian League for Human Rights (LTDH)
international medicine
MEDITERRANEA Saving humans memory
Migrant Rights Network project
MV Louise Michel
Paris of Exile
Push-back alarm Austria
Refugees in Libya
Refugees in Tunisia
ResQ – People save people RESQSHIP
Salvamento Maritimo Humanitario (SMH)
Sea monitoring
Seebrücke – Schafft sichere Häfen
Solidarity without borders (Sosf)
SOS Balkan Route
SOS Humanity
State surveillance
Tunisian Forum for Social and Economic Rights (FTDES)
Union of Tunisian Immigrant Workers (UTIT)
Living Together |
Monitor medical alarm phone
Welcome to the Europe network
Zusammenland gUG/MARE*GO


[1] Reuters, “Italian island of Lampedusa sees record number of migrant arrivals“, September 12, 2023
[2] Maldusa, “The Lampedusa Hotspot system: from failure to non-existence», September 14, 2023
[3] Statement “Humanitarian emergency in the Governorate of Sfax: civil society is sounding the alarm in the face of an unacceptable situation», September 14, 2023
[4] project, “Mass expulsions and outsourcing of the EU in Tunisia: press review and criticism“, August 2023
[5] Alarm phone, “Deadly policies in the Mediterranean: Stop the shipwrecks off the coast of Tunisia“, December 19, 2022
[6] The Republic,”Migrants, da Berlino stop ad accoglienza dei richiedenti asylum dall’Italia“September 12, 2023
[7] European Commission, “Press statement by President von der Leyen with Italian Prime Minister Meloni in Lampedusa», September 17, 2023

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