Lampedusa: how France is already anticipating the influx of migrants

Lampedusa how France is already anticipating the influx of migrants

The French authorities are preparing to open a “space” of 100 places dedicated to “temporary confinement” at the Italian border if a large number of exiled people attempt to enter France, the French ministry announced on Monday, September 19 of the Interior and the local prefecture. Arriving Monday evening in Rome, Gérald Darmanin spoke with his Italian counterpart, Matteo Piantedosi on immigration issues and the situation in Lampedusa. The French authorities fear an influx at the border if some of the migrants recently arrived in Italy try to continue their route to the rest of Europe.

If he reaffirmed that France remained “alongside Italy”, he also advocated “firmness”. And added: “Many people come from countries which do not experience political persecution. These people must return to their country and France must help them.” For his part, Matteo Piantedosi spoke of a “constructive” and “friendly” meeting.

With now 120 soldiers from Operation Sentinel to detect mountain crossings and 200 members of the police every day on the ground to carry out arrests, the number of undocumented people intercepted less than 20 km from the border is increasing, noted Bernard Gonzalez, the prefect of the Alpes-Maritimes department (south-east) during a press point.

“Additional equipment”

In total, 1,500 arrests took place between September 8 and 14, before the episode of arrivals on the small Italian island of Lampedusa. The migrants arrested are all subject to a refusal of admission procedure and are recovered on average four hours later by the Italian police. But at night or on busy days, these readmissions take longer and the premises of the Border Police (PAF) in Menton (south-east) become too cramped.

The prefecture is therefore looking for a site close to these premises for a temporary extension, under tents or in prefabricated premises, with the help of a local civil protection association, to accommodate at least 150, or even 200 people per day in conditions correct, explained the prefect. The current PAF premises can accommodate around a hundred people, and the extension project would double this capacity.

“There is no requisition for the creation of a migrant camp in Menton”, insisted the prefect of Alpes-Maritimes, citing a “communication bug”. He continues: “It is a question of having additional equipment to place arrested foreigners in more favorable conditions […] before handing them over to the Italian authorities.” According to the prefect, the border police premises would be “a little cramped” and this extension would make the system “more operational”.

David Nakache, president of the association All Citizens reacted on Twitter: “The xenophobic pressure is such that the prefect of the Alpes-Maritimes must almost apologize for wanting to welcome the exiles with dignity. The PAF premises in Menton are totally unsuitable. An increase in the capacity of reception is essential.” For its part, in a press release published on Facebook, the mayor of Menton, Yves Juhel, agrees that a “municipal plot next to the border post” could be made available. However, the elected official says he is opposed to “any requisition in particular for our hoteliers who would be faced with a fait accompli”.

12,000 migrants in Lampedusa

This announcement comes as more than 12,000 migrants arrived on Italian shores last week, according to the Italian Interior Ministry, the majority of them in Lampedusa. The situation caused a political shock wave in Italy and revived the subject of European solidarity.

However, specialists on site denounce the exploitation of the subject. “There is no migratory overwhelm. We are talking about very few people, on the scale of the major host countries in the world,” said geographer specializing in migration Camille Schmoll to AFP. Lampedusa is experiencing more “a logistical problem” than a migratory one, observes researcher Matthieu Tardis, director of Synergies migrations. “If these thousands of people had landed in mainland Italy, it would not have raised any controversy.”