EU budget chief urges more help for Italy over migrants
The European Commission on Tuesday called on member states to take in more asylum seekers from Italy following a sharp rise in arrivals in the Mediterranean nation.
Italy is a key destination for boats coming from North Africa, and many reach the southern Italian island of Lampedusa - but many die trying to make it to Europe.
"The coast of Lampedusa is also the coast of the European Union. The people who arrived there are a shared responsibility," said EU budget commissioner Johannes Hahn.
He said 950 people who arrived in Mediterranean countries since last June had been relocated to other European states under a scheme set up last year, with two-thirds from Italy.
"We want member states to relocate more and faster," Hahn added.
He said that Italy had seen "more than 30,000 arrivals in the first three months this year alone, almost a 300 percent increase compared to the same period last year."
"More than 1,500 arrived last weekend alone," he added.
Italy, Hahn said, is the single biggest recipient of EU migration money and had received almost two billion euros since 2015, with discussion ongoing over additional possible emergency financial support.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni's party won elections last year on a pledge to curb sea arrivals.
January to March 2023 was the deadliest first quarter for central Mediterranean migrants since 2017, the United Nations said earlier this month, with 441 lives lost as crossings to Europe soar.