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10 July, 2019 10:58:34 AM
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Europe’s once biggest migrant centre closes

AFP, Italy
Europe’s once biggest migrant centre closes
Houses and a pile of garbage in Europe's one-time biggest asylum seeker and migrants reception centre in Mineo, southern Sicily of Italy are pictured on the day of its closure yesterday. AFP Photo

What was once Europe's biggest migrant reception centre, in Mineo in Sicily, is to officially close yesterday  in the presence of its biggest critic, far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini. "Promise kept," Salvini said last week when the centre's final inhabitants were removed, to be sent to another centre in Calabria.


This reception centre, a former housing complex for the US military that resembles an American suburb, is now guarded by Italian troops who block access under a roasting Sicilian sun. At its peak in 2014, Mineo housed more than 4,100 people.

Its population then steadily dropped. When anti-migrant Salvini and the populist Five Star Movement came to power in June last year, it housed 2,500.

Since then Salvini, who is also deputy prime minister, has declared war on charity rescue vessels, barring their entry to Italian ports in recent weeks. Thousands of migrants nevertheless continue to arrive by their

own means or are rescued by the Italian authorities. Psychologist Massimiliano Terrasi stood amid the arid countryside outside the centre where he worked since 2011, disappointed at what he said could have been.

“Hopes were high when the centre first opened and we grew professionally,” he told AFP-TV.

“Well managed, it could have been an asset for the area and for people’s mutual understanding,” he lamented, voicing anger at the abrupt end to his years of work, final wages still unpaid.

In the beginning, care and hygiene conditions were decent, he said. But things started to deteriorate when the population went over 3,000.

“If you look at how the centre was in the end, it’s a good thing that it closed. But if you think what it could have been, it’s a pity,” he said.

Local resident Sergio Mastrilli was more critical, as he drank a beer on a Mineo bar terrace.

“When the centre first opened, I immediately thought it wasn’t a good thing,” he said.

“It wasn’t a reception centre built on integration but on numbers.”

Mastrilli, a 25-year-old law student, is a supporter of Luigi di Maio’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement, which is in a ruling coalition with Salvini’s Lega for the last 13 months.

“There were more than 4,000 people from 85 different ethnicities, while Mineo has around 5,000 inhabitants,” he said.

He called for a Europe-wide solution to migration, and suggested “many migrants would like to stay in their own countries”, if they could.

BK

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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