After a risky crossing, a boat with migrants arrives at the port of the Italian island of Lampedusa (July 24, 2020).

Photo: Reuters / Mauro Buccarello

The Lampedusa reception center is hopefully overcrowded – again, you have to say. Where there is actually space for 95 migrants, almost 1,000 are accommodated today. And the resulting precarious situation on the small Mediterranean island is – not for the first time – a feast for populist rights in Italy, which favors the fear of migrants.

They come almost every hour: small wooden or rubber boats with ten or even 50 migrants on board. Some are spotted by the Coast Guard and then escorted or towed to Lampedusa’s port, others remain undetected until they anchor at the pier. Almost all of them come from Tunisia; The politically, socially and economically extremely unstable country has become the new starting point for the crossings to Italy after Libya has become too dangerous for the smuggling gangs.

Many of the refugees who go ashore these days and nights in Lampedusa are themselves Tunisians – especially young men who hope for a better future in Europe. Others come from Libya, where they have sometimes persisted in inhumane camps and prisons for years. Many were raped and tortured there, were merchandise from criminal organizations backed by various rulers in the North African country.

Refugees have also repeatedly arrived during the Corona crisis – some 11,000 people have been living in Italy since the beginning of the year. How many were taken up and brought back to hell by the Libyan coast guard, whom they thought they had escaped, is as unknown as the number of people who drowned in the Mediterranean.

In the past few months, the public has been busy and the fate of the migrants has not really interested anyone. Neither the government, which was primarily confronted with the pandemic and its devastating effects, nor the right-wing opposition, which under these circumstances probably did not see a way to really capitalize on the refugee drama.

That has now changed. Above all, the Lega, which has dropped steadily in the survey values ​​over the past six months, has now returned to its favorite topic and is now linking refugees with Corona according to the motto: “They bring the disease into the country.”

The government also criticized Totò Martello, mayor of Lampedusa and elected by a center-left coalition. “The situation has become unbearable. The government has to declare a state of emergency for the island, and if it doesn’t, I’ll do it. The detention center can no longer accommodate migrants and the responsibility for this situation lies neither with the mayor, nor with the city administration, and certainly not with the residents «. He demands that the government set up an air and sea bridge in Rome to take the refugees to the mainland as soon as they arrive. “As things are now, we cannot even identify all of the migrants, let alone test them on Corona.”

Martello does not want to be instrumentalized by the right: “Mr. Salvini is a serial liar when he says that no migrants landed when he was Minister of the Interior. That is simply wrong. “And:” When Salvini was Minister of the Interior, as Mayor I asked him several times to come to our island and take a look at the situation. I never got an answer, but if he had come he could have seen the boats with the refugees entering our port. He probably didn’t come just because otherwise he couldn’t have denied the facts. «

The current, independent Minister of the Interior, Luciana Lamorgese, came to Lampedusa at the weekend to get an idea of ​​the situation. She promised to do something and may send a disused cruise ship where migrants can spend two weeks in quarantine.