In Calabria, in Southern Italy, dozens of migrants with humanitarian protection permits have been evicted from a reception centre. The eviction comes after the so-called 'Salvini decree' stripped the migrants of their special humanitarian protection status so they no longer have a right to housing. Activists are now sounding the alarm.
Just two days after the Italian Parliament passed the decree on November 28, Calabria enforced the new law and began evicting migrants at its CARA d’Isola Capo Rizzuti reception centre. Some 24 migrants, including a couple with a baby, a former sex-trafficking victim and a child suffering from mental health problems, were removed on the orders of local Crotone authorities.
Under the new law, the special humanitarian protection status on which their two-year permits were based no longer exists in Italy. Instead, humanitarian protection status is to be replaced by other, short-term, permits, such as the one-year "special protection" permit and the six-month "natural catastrophe" permit.
Humanitarian protection status was granted to people who weren’t eligible for refugee status but who couldn’t return to their homes because of safety concerns, including for example, people who at risk of persecution in their homeland because of their homosexuality. In 2017, 20,000 people, or 25 percent of all asylum seekers in Italy were given humanitarian protection status.
'What happened here is crazy'
The decree, introduced by Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, stipulates that the country’s migrant reception centres will now be reserved solely for unaccompanied minors, and those who have been given refugee status. In other words, those with humanitarian protection permits will no longer have access to these centers, even if they receive one of the two new kinds of short-term status.
"These 24 people were granted a regular residence permit in Italy, but their right to housing in this first stage of reception has now been invalidated, and so they find themselves without any solution," Father Rino Le Pera, the head of the Caritas charity in the province of Crotone, told InfoMigrants.
Father Le Pera said that among those evicted was "a family with a six-month-old baby (see photo below), a young woman who had been sexually exploited, a woman who had been a victim of violence and a young man who suffered from mental health problems."
"What happened here is crazy," Francesco Parisi, the president of Crotone’s Red Cross, told the British newspaper The Guardian. "You can’t just leave vulnerable people on the street. This is a violation of human rights. We are going to take care of these people now, but I hope things will change."
Ahead of the eviction, Caritas and the Italian Red Cross contacted the d’Isola Capo Rizzuto center to offer housing solutions for the family and the two women. Four other migrants were also taken in by a local cooperative. "We think that the others have hit the road to try to make their way to the makeshift camp in northern Crotone, where hundreds of people are living in terrible conditions in tents," Father Le Pera said, noting that he had been shocked at the speed at which authorities implemented the new rules.
Priests willing to 'open churches'
"We’re trying to prepare ourselves right now because there will likely be more evictions, but we don’t know when that will be, or how many people it will be," he said. In Crotone, Caritas has already set up a dormitory to house 20 people – a solution "that is sure to be insufficient," he said.
According to Italian news agency ANSA, some 200 people are expected to be evicted from the Calabria reception centre. The Guardian reported that authorities in the city of Potenza, in the southern region of Basilicata, earlier this month called on its migrant reception centres to "invite" humanitarian protection permit holders "to leave." Italian media has also reported that a dozen migrants have been ordered to leave the reception centre in Caserta, in Campania. In the next few days, hundreds of people will also be forced to leave the centre in Minea, in Sicily, which is the second-largest migrant reception centre in Europe.
In a bid to help the humanitarian protection migrants who are facing eviction, Italian priests last week announced they would "open their churches" to those who find themselves on the streets.