By Yara Nardi

LAMPEDUSA, Italy (Reuters) – The Italian Coast Guard found a newborn baby dead on a boat carrying migrants to Lampedusa, ANSA news agency reported on Saturday, as dozens of the island’s citizens protested over a recent surge in arrivals.

Nearly 126,000 migrants have arrived in Italy this year, almost double the figure by the same date in 2022.

Lampedusa has recently borne the brunt, with thousands of landings this week alone, more than the island’s permanent population, triggering appeals for help from local politicians.

The Italian Coast Guard found a newborn baby dead on a boat during a rescue operation off Lampedusa, ANSA said, adding the baby was born during the trip and died soon after birth.

Earlier this week, a five-month-old baby boy drowned during a rescue operation off Lampedusa after a boat carrying migrants across the sea from North Africa capsized.

Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni called on Friday for the European Union to act jointly “with a naval mission if necessary” to prevent migrants from crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa and promised strict action in response to a surge in migrant arrivals this week.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will visit the island on Sunday, accepting an invitation from Meloni, according to an EU official.

Germany has decided to keep taking in migrants and refugees arriving in Italy, the interior minister said late on Friday, two days after it announced the suspension of a voluntary agreement with Rome to receive new arrivals.

Dozens of Lampedusa residents held protests on Saturday against a plan to build a new tent camp to host migrants.

“I have two children at home. In the past years, I did not care about this issue. But now I have an instinct of protection for my children because I don’t know what will happen to Lampedusa in the future,” one of the protesters said.

“Lampedusa says stop! We don’t want tent camps. This message is for Europe and for the Italian government. Lampedusa residents are tired”, another protester said.

An image showed three women blocking a Red Cross vehicle carrying food for migrants.

(Reporting by Gianluca Semeraro in Milan; Additional reporting by Ludwig Burger in Frankfurt and Jan Strupczewski in Brussels; Editing by Toby Chopra and Mike Harrison)

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