Old brawl footage misrepresented as migrants in Lampedusa Italy

A surge of migrants arrived by boat to the Italian island of Lampedusa in September 2023 and social media posts claim a video shows them attacking local military police. This is false; the clip shows a brawl outside a nightclub in 2021 in Marotta, a town in the Marche region of central Italy.

"In Italy. Direct clashes between migrants and police began on the island of Lampedusa. Illegal immigrants throw stones at the carabinieri and demand that they be sent to Europe," says a September 17, 2023 X post.

Screenshot of an X post taken September 20, 2023

The claim can be found elsewhere on X, TikTok and on Facebook in English and French.

Approximately 8,500 people docked in Lampedusa in the space of a few days in mid-September, more than the entire population of the Mediterranean island. The European Union presented on September 17, 2023, an emergency plan for Italy to help with the record number of migrants.

The news fueled outrage among European far-right politicians who claim the asylum seekers are plunging the European Union into a migration crisis, sparking debates on illegal immigration. Some like Marine Le Pen, the leader of the French far-right, claimed the country was being "submerged by migration."

But the images of migrants landing on the tiny island have created a sensationalized depiction of African migration according to experts.

"Lampedusa is getting all the attention because the pictures are impressive and because there is a phenomenon of 'over-concentration', of hyper-visibility linked to the fact that the island is tiny and the reception center is overwhelmed," Camille Schmoll, an expert on migration told AFP.

The video showing violence toward Italian law enforcement was amplified amid rising tensions. But despite the claim, the footage was not shot in Lampedusa in 2023, but in another region of Italy in 2021.

AFP used the InVID/WeVerify tool to split the video into a series of still images, allowing for a reverse image search on Yandex which found the it shared in an X post published in 2021 in Flemish by Belgian far-right parliamentarian Sam Van Rooy (archived here).

Screenshot of an X post taken September 20, 2023

This led AFP to multiple Italian news articles (archived here, here and here) that reported on the 2021 incident -- a brawl outside a club involving several foreign nationals, during which two police officers were injured while intervening., describing the incident as having taken place in the town of Marotta in central Italy -- not on the island of Lampedusa.

Internet keyword searches for "Marotta 7 August 2021" also uncovered a tweet from far right politician Matteo Salvini, who is currently the deputy prime minister of Italy, confirming the location (archived here).

AFP has debunked other false claims regarding migration here.

September 22, 2023 This article was updated to only reference Italian news coverage of the 2021 brawl.

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