A senior Polish diplomat has raised concerns that the influx of illegal immigrants arriving on the Italian island of Lampedusa may be part of a Russian hybrid operation aimed at undermining EU support for Ukraine. This comes as the Italian Interior Ministry reported that over 89,000 people have entered Italy illegally this year, with Lampedusa being a primary destination for these arrivals.
Deputy Foreign Minister Arkadiusz Mularczyk speculated during an interview with Polish Radio that there is someone assisting these individuals in traveling hundreds, if not thousands, of kilometers from Nigeria and Central African countries to the Mediterranean Sea. He suggested that Russia has a vested interest in these movements, as Russian President Vladimir Putin aims to destabilize Western Europe. Mularczyk believes that the current confusion and unrest caused by illegal immigration serves as a diversion from the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, with Putin exerting influence behind the scenes in smuggling individuals into the EU through criminal groups.
Mularczyk stated, “And it was successful because today, the war in Ukraine is fading into the background, and the entire EU is talking about what is happening in Lampedusa.” Claims of Russia’s involvement in facilitating illegal immigration into Europe have been circulating for years. In November 2021, certain EU member states, including Poland, accused Belarus and, by extension, Russia of exploiting migrants seeking asylum in the EU for political purposes.
President Putin has previously addressed these allegations, claiming that the “key link” of migrant smuggling networks is located within the EU. He argued that European officials were attempting to blame Russia for their own policy shortcomings, asserting that Western military interventions abroad and the attractive welfare benefits offered by EU nations to asylum seekers were the root causes of the influx of migrants. Putin urged EU countries to deal with their internal problems and not lay them on other people.
The conservative Polish government has openly criticized Brussels and Western European countries, particularly Germany, for what they perceive as their failure to adequately address illegal migration issues and for burdening other EU member states with hosting migrants.
The concerns raised by the Polish diplomat shed light on the geopolitical implications of the illegal immigration situation in Italy. It highlights that the issue extends beyond the immediate humanitarian crisis and suggests that there may be hidden motives behind the large number of arrivals on Lampedusa. The ongoing unrest in Ukraine and Russia’s desire to divert attention from it adds another layer to the complex issue of illegal migration in Europe. As the situation continues to evolve, it will be important for EU member states to collaborate and address the underlying causes in order to effectively manage and mitigate the challenges posed by illegal immigration.