Italian President Sergio Mattarella, with Centro Astalli President Father Camillo Ripamonti, at the end of the inauguration of the "Matteo Ricci" reception centre, Rome, 4 February 2019 | Photo: ANSA/ QUIRINAL PRESS OFFICE/FRANCESCO AMENDOLA
Italian President Sergio Mattarella, with Centro Astalli President Father Camillo Ripamonti, at the end of the inauguration of the "Matteo Ricci" reception centre, Rome, 4 February 2019 | Photo: ANSA/ QUIRINAL PRESS OFFICE/FRANCESCO AMENDOLA

Centro Astalli, the Jesuit service for refugees in Italy, said that regarding the controversy over migrant arrivals in Sicily, the real emergency "is the fact that people are dying in the Mediterranean and from causes that force them to flee their countries."

The Centro Astalli centers in Palermo and Catania, area headquarters for the Jesuit service for refugees in Italy, have been on the front lines in reception for the migrant population in Sicily for many years. They are now expressing "serious concern over the situation of migrants who have recently arrived on the island and the reception reserved for them." 

In a statement, the center said that "it seems necessary to us to reiterate that the true emergency is that of people dying in the Mediterranean and the causes that push them to flee their countries, oppressed by wars, humanitarian crises and grave social injustices. Every day in our services we gather their stories and we try to accompany them in their difficult legal and health paths." 

'Avoid alarmist tones' 

The Italian interior ministry registered 17,264 arrivals by sea from the start of the year through August 21, a total of 2,200 fewer people compared to the same period in 2018. 

"In light of these figures, we are calling on institutions to avoid alarmist tones that feed fears, and instead to propose planned solutions that protect the rights of migrants and public health," the centers said. 

In particular, they said "we are calling on the region of Sicily to promptly implement effective collaboration with protection agencies in the area to do everything possible to manage arrivals and the presence of migrants in the interests and safety of everyone, taking account of the vulnerabilities that many of them have, having often been victims of torture, violence, and grave violations of human rights, and there being many women and children among them."

'We are paying the very high price for the security decrees' 

"We don't find ourselves before an unexpected emergency, but rather now we are paying the very high price of the effects of the security decrees: restrictive migration policies, of closure -- if not outright discrimination -- that characterised the past year, sharpening precariousness, exclusion, and irregularity, making the entire society more vulnerable," they said. 

"Today in Sicily we are seeing the damage provoked by not having invested in the protection, reception, and integration of migrants."
 

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