French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin arrived in Rome on Monday evening, where he plans to deliver a message of “firmness” in the face of illegal crossings of the Mediterranean, after the influx of migrants on the Italian island of Lampedusa. Mr. Darmanin arrived shortly before 7:30 p.m. at the Italian Interior Ministry to meet his counterpart Matteo Piantedosi.
“At the request of the president [Emmanuel Macron], I am going to Rome this afternoon,” he declared on Europe1/CNews media Monday morning, explaining that France wanted in particular to “help Italy hold its external border, the first gateway to Europe from North Africa.
Between last Monday and Wednesday, around 8,500 people, more than the entire population of Lampedusa, arrived aboard 199 boats, according to the United Nations migration agency. This massive arrival put the island's reception capacities under great strain, generated a political shock wave in Italy and relaunched the thorny question of European solidarity in terms of the distribution of asylum seekers to support the countries in need. first line of these arrivals.
“There cannot be a message given to people who come to our [European] soil that they will be welcomed whatever happens,” however, underlined Gérald Darmanin, who wants to send a message of “firmness” to Rome.
“We have to apply European rules,” he added: “If there are asylum seekers who are eligible for asylum, who are persecuted for political reasons, obviously they are refugees. And in this case, France […], as it has always done, can welcome these people. » But in “60%” of cases, they “come from countries like Ivory Coast, Guinea, Gambia”, where “there is no humanitarian question”.
“What we want to say to our Italian friends, who I believe are in complete agreement with us, [is] that we must protect the external borders of the European Union and above all immediately look at asylum requests , and when they are not eligible send them back to their country,” he said.
A message of appeasement aimed at the right-wing and far-right Italian government, whose leader Giorgia Meloni criticized its European partners on Sunday for lacking solidarity towards Italy, which welcomed nearly 130,000 people into its territory since the start of the year, almost double compared to 2022 over the same period.
On the other hand, Gérald Darmanin will not go to Lampedusa, like the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, who presented an emergency plan there on Sunday, said the minister's entourage.
This ten-point aid plan, intended to manage the emergency of migratory flows towards Italy, plans to better distribute asylum seekers between European countries or even to facilitate returns. It is supposed to combine firmness against smugglers and facilitation of legal channels of entry into the European area for candidates for exile eligible for asylum.
The central Mediterranean, which connects North Africa, notably Libya and Tunisia, to Europe, is the most dangerous maritime migration route in the world: more than 2,000 migrants have died attempting this crossing since the start of the year, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).