Conte agrees to deal with overcrowding of refugee center on Lampedusa island

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte vowed to deal with the over-crowding of emergency refugee center on Lampedusa, a small island in southern Italy.

Conte met Nello Musumeci, president of the Italian Region of Sicily, and Toto Martello, mayor of Lampedusa on Wednesday, Xinhua news agency reported.

Lampedusa has long been one of the main landing spots for would-be asylum seekers trying to reach Europe from Africa due to its location around halfway between Sicily and the northern coast of Africa.

Conte said he was “open to the idea” of giving tax credits to Lampedusa’s residents to help soften the economic blow caused by the arrivals of illegal migrants. But he did not provide details about that aspect.

“Economic hardship requires the state to have a strong response,” Conte said.

The prime minister also pledged that the government would dispatch five quarantine ships to the island to take the refugees to other parts of Italy where they can be processed more effectively. The process should be completed by Friday, the government said.

According to Martello, Lampedusa’s emergency refugee center that is designed to accommodate 190 refugees is now housing nearly 1,200.