European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited a migrant reception center on the Italian island of Lampedusa, after the country’s prime minister asked for EU help for small boat arrivals.
More than 8,000 immigrants have arrived on the island in the last three days.
Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni says Italy is being put under “unsustainable pressure.”
Von der Leyen acknowledged on Sunday that the issue was “a European challenge and needs a European response.”
In a press conference with Meloni, she praised the people of Lampedusa for the support they had given to the migrants, who she said had come to the island “simply because of its location”.
He promised to increase support to move migrants out of Lampedusa, as well as step up efforts against people smugglers who enabled dangerous and illegal journeys.
The problem cannot be solved by Italy alone, Meloni stated. It currently affects “the borders, the border countries”, but will soon involve all EU states, he said.
“The future of Europe depends on its ability to address the epoch-making challenges of our time and the challenge of illegal immigration is certainly one of them.”
The mother is believed to have given birth during the journey from North Africa, the Ansa news agency reports, and the death is being investigated.
The boy’s body was placed in a white coffin and taken to a cemetery in the Imbriacola district of Lampedusa, according to Italian media.
Earlier this week, a five-month-old baby drowned during a rescue operation off the island, after a boat carrying migrants across the sea from North Africa capsized.
Meloni is pushing for the European Union to establish a naval blockade to prevent ships from crossing the Mediterranean to reach Italian shores.
The Italian Red Cross said on Saturday it was caring for about 2,500 people in a reception center designed for 400 arrivals.
Volunteers and staff have been providing thousands of meals all week and helping transport new arrivals to Sicily and beyond.
Almost 126,000 migrants have arrived in Italy so far this year, approximately double the number in the same period in 2022.
Meloni said on Saturday that he was calling on von der Leyen “to personally realize the seriousness of the situation we face” and to “immediately accelerate” the implementation of a agreement with tunisia.
The North African country has become the main departure point for African immigrants trying to reach Europe.
The EU deal, which was signed in July, is backed by €110m ($118m; £90m) of EU cash to stop smuggling, strengthen borders and return migrants.
The surge in arrivals sparked protests Saturday by some Lampedusa residents against plans to build a new tent camp to house migrants.
“I have two children at home. In recent years, this issue did not matter to me. But now I have an instinct to protect my children because I do not know what will happen to Lampedusa in the future,” one of the protesters told the news agency. Reuters.
“Lampedusa says enough! We don’t want tent camps. This message is for Europe and for the Italian government. The residents of Lampedusa are tired,” said another protester.
Jasmine Lozzelli, an activist working in Lampedusa, told the BBC that the migrants should be sent to mainland Italy.
“It’s not a problem of numbers, it’s a problem of how to manage the reception system. If you start carrying out rescues properly with large ships, you will not take them to an island of 5,000 inhabitants, but to the mainland,” she said .
“Putting them on Lampedusa creates the emergency.”