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Migrant Lives

Lampedusa, The Far Right's Favorite European Island

The European migrant crisis is once again making headlines, this time from the small island of Lampedusa, Italy. It exposes not only the far right's eagerness to exploit the issue of immigration, but also the delicate balance of power in electoral terms.

Photograph of migrants who have recently arrived to Lampedusa, standing in line as they wait to be transferred someplace else.

September 13, Lampedusa: Migrants arrive to the island await transferral.

Elio Desiderio/ZUMA

-Analysis-

PARIS β€” Europe is facing a new test of its unity and strength. In recent years, it had to tackle challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This time, the test comes from the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa.

This 20 square-kilometer island saw more migrants arrive last week than it has inhabitants, some 8500 people, largely from Tunisia, arriving on 200 boats. While this is a large number for the island to handle, it's s important to have perspective before using terms such as "invasion." We are far from the numbers seen in 2015 when one million migrants arrived, particularly from Syria.

The issue is humanitarian, but also, ultimately, political. It challenges the hard line on immigration of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, and her coalition that spans from center-right to far-right allies. The arrival of migrants en masse serves as an ideal opportunity for political exploitation as the campaign for the European elections begins. It also disrupts the shaky migration policy of the European Union and the agreement narrowly reached in June.

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