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EU President Ursula von der Leyen will visit Lampedusa with Giorgia Meloni amid rising migrant arrivals

origin 1Police officers walk alongside migrants on the island of Lampedusa, Italy, Friday, September 15, 2023. ©Cecilia Fabiano/LaPresse

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will travel this weekend with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni to the island of Lampedusa, where thousands of migrants have arrived this week, an EU official announced on Saturday.

Meloni had asked Brussels for help after around 8,500 people arrived by boat on this small Italian island in the Mediterranean, 145 kilometers off the coast of Tunisia, over three days this week. He stated that Europe needs a “paradigm shift” in its approach to the issue of migrants.

The Italian government held an extraordinary meeting on the migrant crisis after Meloni called for a naval blockade of North Africa to address the issue.

Meloni had invited the head of the European Commission to visit Lampedusa with her to see conditions firsthand and called for the implementation of a new European Union migration agreement with Tunisia.

“Obviously Italy and Europe cannot accommodate this massive influx of people, especially when these migratory flows are managed by unscrupulous traffickers,” he said.

In Paris, French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin called police, immigration officials and regional government leaders Saturday morning for a second summit to coordinate a response.

This comes as French far-right leader Marine Le Pen is in Italy to meet Matteo Salvini, the leader of Meloni’s coalition partner, the League Party.

On Friday, Le Pen’s niece, far-right French politician Marion Marechal, was in Lampedusa to show her support for Italy, which she said has been abandoned by Europe to deal with migrants on its own.

“I have come to support the people and the Italian government because Lampedusa today and the Italian borders are the borders of all of Europe,” Marechal told Italian journalists. “We must change EU policy to help the Italian government, which today is alone in dealing with this crisis.”