A tiny island off Sicily has been engulfed with thousands of migrants in 48 hours which has more than doubled its population.
Lampedusa’s Mayor, Filippo Mannino, on Thursday declared a state of emergency. He said: “We are drained.”
Mr Mannino lashed out at Europe for leaving Italy alone to grapple with migrant arrivals by sea, saying the bloc had “remained silent all these months.”
He called for a structural solution to the migrant crisis, and told Sky News Italy that Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni had pledged her support.
A frenzy erupted as migrants jostled to secure food rations and water bottles provided by the Red Cross. And at Falvaro pier, where 300 migrants, await transfers, riot police were forced to intervene, as the tide of migrants shows no signs of subsiding.
Other politicians were also quick to blame the EU’s failing migration policies and the bloc’s insufficient support to Italy.
In a note sent to Express.co.uk, Italian MEP Annalisa Tardino said: “In these four years of legislature the European Union has managed not to give definitive answers to the immigration emergency.
“Lots of handshakes, catwalks, nice words. Results to date? Zero. Brussels has been working on reforms for almost 10 years on which no majorities can be found,” he said.
“And in the meantime, we continue to unload weight and responsibility exclusively on Italy and Sicily.
“Today we delude ourselves that the memorandum of understanding signed with Tunisia is a noteworthy action, but we are waiting for it to become operational because in the meantime, thanks to your blackmail to the Italian government, the invasion is coming from Tunisia. Without anyone worrying about stopping the departures.
“We will work so that this socialist Europe is just a bad memory and so that another majority, in the next mandate, can have the courage to seriously address the problem and finally defend Europe’s borders.”
Responding to the unfolding tragedy, EU Commission spokeswoman Anitta Hipper said on Thursday: “The current migration situation underlines to us once again the challenges we have and the efforts we must put in place.
“On Lampedusa, the President of the EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen is in contact with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and this morning the Commissioner for Internal Affairs Ylva Johansson spoke to Minister Piantedosi to evaluate the situation and see how the EU can provide aid.
“We support Italy on an operational and financial level. And we are ready to support Italy.”
A migrant reception centre was overwhelmed Thursday as it coped with transferring thousands of people to the mainland after they arrived on small, unseaworthy boats this week.
The Red Cross said there were still 4,200 migrants at the centre, out of the 6,800 who reached the tiny tourist and fishing island in a flotilla of some 120 boats arriving from Tunisia. Transfers to the mainland were ongoing.
“After a particularly challenging day like yesterday, today people are being continuously transferred,” said Francesca Basile of the Italian Red Cross. “The situation is certainly complex and gradually we are trying to return to normal.”
She said all of the migrants had been given food, and that camping beds were being distributed “so that they don’t sleep in the cold.”
According to the Italian Interior Ministry, nearly 124,000 migrants had reached the country by sea this year by Wednesday, roughly double the number by the same time last year. On Thursday, another 180 migrants rescued at sea were brought to the port city of Salerno, south of Naples.