Italy: revolt in migrant centre near Venice ends

Political row on reception of migrants erupts

03 January, 18:51

    Revolt in migrant centre near Venice ends Revolt in migrant centre near Venice ends

    (By Denis Greenan).

    ROME - A revolt by migrants in a centre near Venice ended Tuesday but a political row erupted about the reception of migrants in Italy. The revolt at the centre at Cona near Venice ended after migrants protested overnight by holing up in some containers, setting fires and barricading 25 volunteers, after the sudden death of a young Ivorian woman, Sandrine Bakayoko. The migrants said the emergency services were slow in responding, a charge the services rejected.

    The young Ivorian woman proved to have died of a thrombosis, the autopsy said Tuesday. Venice prosecutor Lucia D'Alessandro said "the cause of the young woman's death has been established. It was a bilateral pulmonary thrombo-embolism". Violence or contagious disease have been "totally" ruled out, she said.

    "I want to stress," D'Alessandro said, "that it is in the prosecutors' interest to divulge the cause of death to avert concern spreading about possible diseases believed to be dangerous for others.

    "For that reason we are carrying out all possible checks relating to the health conditions of the guests of the facility".

    Il Sole-24 Ore radio said that before the protest, the centre's management was being investigated after allegations of fraud and maltreatment.

    Also Tuesday migrants protesting against conditions in a hostel blocked a street in Verona by turning over rubbish containers. Police re-routed traffic including buses until the protest ended. The protest focused essentially on the allegedly poor quality of food.

    Meanwhile the political row fuelled by the Cona revolt continued.

    Anti-immigrant Northern League leader Matteo Salvini said Tuesday there would be "mass expulsions" of migrants when the League gained power, after the most recent revolt.

    Speaking after volunteers were briefly seized at the centre near Venice, Salvini said "we will carry out mass expulsions, Italy has had enough of such cases".

    "2017 will be the year we take our country back" Salvini criticised the migrants for "setting fire to furniture and abducting operators including doctors and nurses all night".

    The revolt shows how "uncontrollable" such large centres are, Catholic migrant charity Migrantes said.

    "These maxi-centres risk becoming uncontrollable and therefore explosive places," said Migrantes Director-General Msgr Giancarlo Perego.

    Msgr Perego called for a "more spread-out reception in the local community, with smaller numbers of migrants, under the control of the local communities, that is the individual municipalities".

    The Migrantes Foundation is a pastoral association of the Italian Bishops' Conference (CEI).

    Ruling centre-left Democratic Party (PD) MP Federico Gelli, chair of the parliamentary commission of inquiry into migrants, said "if all Italian municipalities agreed to take in migrants there would be just 20 of them each".

    Italy currently has 175,485 migrants in temporary accommodation, hot spots, first-reception centres and asylum seeker and refugee centres (SPRARs), according to the latest data from the interior ministry.

    There are 14,669 migrants in first-reception centre, which are present in only seven regions, the largest being at Crotone, Mineo near Catania, Cona near Venice, and Bagnoli di Sopra near Padua.

    The breakdown by regions is as follows: Lazio (824), Veneto (3032), Sicily (4530), Emilia Romagna (652), Calabria (3254), Liguria (1218) and Friuli Venezia Giulia (1159). There are 136,706 migrants in temporary accommodation; 547 in hot spots; and 25,563 in SPRARs.

    The interior ministry has just ordered a clampdown on irregular migrants in Italy with heightened controls and more expulsions.

    The new provisions come as the government considers establishing identification and expulsion centres (CIE) in every region. Italy currently has 10 CIEs, of which only four are operating. The plan is to speed up renovations already underway and use military barracks when necessary.

    The Italian authorities also aim to reach new bilateral agreements with African countries.

    To this end Interior Minister Marco Minniti travelled to Tunisia on Tuesday before transferring to Malta in order to obtain a rapid green light for repatriations. There are also plans to alter the crime of illegal immigration in order to avoid suspects remaining in Italy until the end of legal proceedings against them.

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