The building that hosts the social center ex Canapificio, the association that manages the SPRAR hosting system for refugees. | PHOTO: ANSA/ANTONIO PISANI
The building that hosts the social center ex Canapificio, the association that manages the SPRAR hosting system for refugees. | PHOTO: ANSA/ANTONIO PISANI

A group of Caserta residents has raised 12,000 euros for activists from the 'ex Canapificio' social center to help them take over a cash-strapped center which hosts asylum seekers in the southern Italian city. The interior ministry has not paid the center the last installment of funding due in 2018, worth 660,000 euros.

A network of residents in Caserta has raised money to help activists run a hosting center for asylum seekers after the interior ministry did not pay all the funding pledged for 2018. The social center titled 'ex-Canapificio' was set up in 1995 by left-wing activists who pledged to fight for social justice for everyone. As part of their work, they began managing a center for asylum-seekers and refugees in Italy. The center is part of the SPRAR network -the system to protect and host asylum seekers and refugees in Italy- which is now being altered by the current government into a new system. 

The activists called out the government after their funding dried up in 2018. That was when local residents responded by donating over 12,000 euros. The interior ministry was scheduled to pay the last installment of 660,000 euros in 2018. 

Center cash-strapped due to lack of funding 

The donated money will be used to buy food and medicines for the 160 migrants who are part of the project, to pay for their rent and for training courses in dozens of companies in the area. It will also pay for the salaries of 40 people who have been employed as part of the project. 

The situation at the center has had an effect on the local economy too. Local farms in the area provided fruit and vegetables for the center and claim that they have not been paid for months. The rents of apartments hosting the migrants have also not been paid for months. 

Social center urges ministry to provide funding 

Up until 2018, the social center was considered to be a model of social integration, according to the Italian Interior Ministry. It had, in fact, been granted additional funding as a form of recognition for its role. The project that the group manages, part of the SPRAR network, is due to expire at the end of 2019.The head of the social center, Mimma D'Amico, told a press conference last week that ''while all Italian cities that have SPRAR projects have been paid up until March 2019, we are still waiting for the final installment due for 2018 worth 660,000 euros.''

The situation for the center is serious. Banks have loaned them money she explained and now "we are indebted to those banks who have loaned us money," she added. 'We therefore fear that the first installment for this year, worth over 600,000 euros, which should be paid in June, will be of little use.'' 

The association's headquarters were also seized because the building was deemed unsafe by authorities. Since the seizure, the activists have met in public spaces when the weather is good; when it is bad, they have been hosted by other local associations, but it has been difficult without their usual office, said D'Amico.

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