DPrime Minister Giuseppe Conte skillfully claims the successes of the Italian government, for example in the struggle for billions from the EU financial package in Brussels. With the political difficulties of today, especially in the fight against illegal migration, the head of government is leaving his cabinet stand in the rain. This is the barely encrypted subtext of a long Facebook entry that Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio of the left-wing populist five-star movement put online on Monday evening. The text reads like the tirade of an opposition leader, like the blow of right-wing nationalist Matteo Salvini, not like that of a senior cabinet member. Salvini cannot remember often enough these days that the number of migrants has more than tripled since the beginning of 2020 to a good 12,500 compared to the previous year, when he was still Minister of the Interior in Rome.

Matthias Rüb

Political correspondent for Italy, the Vatican, Albania and Malta based in Rome.

With his contribution, Di Maio, recognizably upset, responded to two mass outbreaks of refugee accommodation in Caltanisetta and Porto Empedocle in Sicily within 24 hours. The migrants, almost all Tunisians, apparently feared an immediate return to their home country. In any case, they fled the quarantine rule, according to which migrants who come across the Mediterranean are not allowed to leave the accommodation assigned to them by the authorities for two weeks after arriving in Italy.

“Unimaginable” quarantine break

Di Maio described the mass quarantine break as “unimaginable”: “This is not about ideological or political struggles. This is simply about security, about all of us security, about public health. ”And then Di Maio Caltanisetta’s mayor Roberto Gambino and his colleague Ida Carmina from Porto Empedocle assured his“ full solidarity ”.

The city leaders had heavily criticized the government in Rome for the outbreaks. First, 184 young men fled the Caltanisetta reception camp on Sunday afternoon. According to the government, the security forces were able to bring around 120 of them back to the camp, the others have disappeared. On Monday, dozens of other migrants from the transitional camp in Porto Empedocle then went abroad. The search for them continues. The accommodation, a kind of beer tent in the middle of an industrial area, is designed for a hundred people; at least 520 people were there at the time of the outbreak.

Even before the incident, Mayor Carmina had denounced the conditions in the camp as “inhumane” and asked the government to vacate it immediately: “There are no windows there, it’s like an oven, people are choking.” Caltanisetta’s Mayor Gambino Prime Minister Conte said on Tuesday that his city was not ready to accept more migrants. Meanwhile, Rome is trying to reassure the Sicilians with the insurance that no infections were found in corona tests among the missing migrants.

The escalation in Sicily involuntarily caused the left coalition in Rome itself. Because the reception camp on the small island of Lampedusa has been hopelessly overcrowded for days due to the constant arrival of new refugees and the local mayor Totò Martella had already described the situation as “uncontrollable” on Saturday, the government had hundreds of migrants brought to Sicily from Lampedusa with every scheduled ferry .

Regional president Nello Musumeci, who has been leading a center-right coalition in Palermo since November 2017, is now protesting. “Our law enforcement officers do what they can, and we are grateful to them for their efforts,” said Musumeci on Monday: “The mistake lies simply with the government in Rome. Because it closes the eyes from reality and tells us that everything is fine. And then she reacts hectically and improvised. You can’t treat Sicily like a colony. ”

“Unregulated migration flows” from Tunisia

To calm the situation, Rome ordered the military in advance to guard and secure the migrant camps of Caltanisetta and Porto Empedocle on Tuesday. The soldiers should also help the police and carabinieri to find the missing migrants. Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese, like Prime Minister Conte impartially, also announced from Tunis on Monday that the government would provide a large ferry this week to accommodate migrants off the coast of Sicily.

After discussions with Tunisian President Kais Saied and designated Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, Lamorgese expressed concern about the increasing number of migrants crossing from Tunisia to Italy. Together with Tunis, Rome wants to curb these “unregulated migration flows” from Tunisia, said Lamorgese. Almost half of the boat refugees who had arrived in Italy since the beginning of the year had left for the Tunisian coast to Italy, and a good 4,500 of these migrants were Tunisian citizens, explained Lamorgese. Almost all Tunisian asylum applications are rejected in Italy – just like in other EU countries.

According to Italian media reports, another group of eleven Tunisians arrived in Lampedusa on Monday: in an inflatable boat with a powerful outboard motor, the luggage was stowed in fashionable backpacks, and one of the migrants had even brought his poodle on a leash.