An archive photo of migrants disembarking in Sicily | Photo: ANSA/Ufficio Stampa Oxfam / Alessandro Rota
An archive photo of migrants disembarking in Sicily | Photo: ANSA/Ufficio Stampa Oxfam / Alessandro Rota

UNHCR’s Representative to Italy Chiara Cardoletti made a first visit to Sicily. During it, she praised the island's management of migrant arrivals and said it had shown an "unwavering commitment" to migrant integration.

Last week, UNCHR Representative to Italy, the Holy See and San Marino Chiara Cardoletti conducted a visit to Sicily, marking her first trip in the field after she took up her new position.

The branch of the UN refugee agency said in a statement published in Italian that the island had always been "on the front line of managing arrivals via sea of refugees and migrants in our country and has shown unwavering commitment through involvement in projects that are crucial for the integration of the most vulnerable refugees."

Respect for rights even during the pandemic

During the visit, UNHCR met in Catania with civil society organizations and partners of the UN agency which assist female migrants and refugees that have suffered violence. Cardoletti visited the LILA organization and the Thamaia anti-violence center there. The visit lasted three days.

The UN agency also visited a reception center for unaccompanied foreign minors and the Pozzallo hotspot, where it was welcomed by local institutions, Mayor Salvatore Ammatuna and representatives of the prefect's office, the police headquarters.


The visit ended on the island of Lampedusa, which is almost 300 kilometers  south of mainland Sicily and often the first point of arrival for migrants coming on boats from North Africa.  There Cardoletti visited the hotspot on the island and met with representatives of the prefect's office, the Coast Guard, the Financial Police and Mayor Salvatore Martello.

Cardoletti thanked the local institutions on UNHCR's behalf for having helped to ensure a safe port, provided the immediate assistance necessary and made possible the reception of migrants and refugees rescued at sea even during a crisis as serious as that of COVID-19.

"Acting with humility and responsibility and in line with national health directives, they have shown once again how compliance with international norms in terms of human rights and refugee protection can be ensured even in very difficult times and with border restrictions, protecting the health of those rescued and the local population," the representative of the Italy office of UNHCR said.

'Sicily key for Italy's migrant reception'

The UN agency noted that, in 2019, 65% of migrant arrivals by sea in Italy occurred on the Sicilian coasts. UNHCR said that it plans to continue its close collaboration with local administrations, the Coast Guard and the Financial Police in order to ensure UN support to the region so that it can continue to comply with its mandate for refugee protection which is at the center of the agency's work.

"Sicily provides a key contribution for Italy not only in ensuring rescue and assistance to those in danger in the Mediterranean but also through policies aimed at supporting refugees in their path towards the achievement of autonomy, a necessary condition to foster integration into Italian society," Cardoletti said.

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