An Italian police car | Photo: ARCHIVE/ANSA
An Italian police car | Photo: ARCHIVE/ANSA

A single meal a day, no cleaning services, migrants forced to light fires to cook - these were among the conditions at some migrant reception centers in Prato, Italy, an inquiry has found. The head of the consortium that ran these centers has been accused of misusing public funds and defrauding the state. She has been placed under house arrest.

No cleaning services, a single meal a day instead of the three required as part of their contract and other irregularities were found in a probe that has led to the head of the Astir consortium,  Loretta Giuntoli, being placed under house arrest.

Roberto Baldini and Alberto Pintusel, two lawyers representing the Humanitus cooperative which is part of the same consortium, have been barred from exercising their profession for nine months. Prato prosecitor's office is currently running an investigation into the management of eight reception centers for asylum seekers in Prato, Carmignano, and Poggio a Caiano, three towns in northern Italy near Florence. They are looking into whether Giuntoli, other Astir employees or people who worked with Astir could be guilty of fraud in public supply. Consortium head Giuntoli has also been accused of threatening three employees of the consortium. 

Migrants forced to get sheets from the trash 

The inquiry began in mid-2018 after reports by residents of Poggio a Caiao. Some of the refugees hosted in the facilities had been "forced to get sheets from the trash to cover themselves," as well as "light fires in the garden to be able to cook," state prosecutor Giuseppe Nicolosi, who is overseeing the investigations, said. 

The police documented the irregularities with photos and videos. As part of the investigation, in July five apartments equipped to host migrants in and around Prato managed by Astir were seized. 

Caritas deputy chief suspends himself, under investigation 

Alberto Pintus, one of those placed under investigation, suspended himself from the position of deputy director of Catholic charity Caritas in Prato. 

''The decision,'' noted a statement released by the Prato diocese, ''was made after an investigation by the Prato prosecutor's office as part of the management of special reception centers (CAS) managed by the Astir consortium.''

Caritas, however, has not been placed under investigation and is not involved in the centers in Prato and the surrounding area. According to the diocese's statement, Pintus was the chairman of the Humanitus cooperative, which belongs to the Astir consortium, until June 29 of this year, when he was designated deputy director of Caritas.

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