Vicofaro parish priest Father Biancalani with a group of migrants at the Community of Vicofaro in Pistoia | Photo: ANSA
Vicofaro parish priest Father Biancalani with a group of migrants at the Community of Vicofaro in Pistoia | Photo: ANSA

The Italian region of Tuscany has issued an ordinance that calls for most of the migrants staying at church buildings in Pistoia to be relocated to other facilities. The goal: To reduce overcrowding and thus reduce the risk of a coronavirus outbreak.

An ordinance signed Wednesday by Tuscan Governor Enrico Rossi calls for the "adequate decongestion" of the approximately 200 migrants staying at the Community of Vicofaro, in Pistoia. The migrants will be transferred to other facilities in order to "reduce overcrowding and ensure suitable [coronavirus] prevention measures," Rossi wrote.

The ordinance was the last one to be issued by the outgoing Tuscan governor.

Italian rights groups had long called for the relocation of migrants from the Pistoia church facilities to other accommodation.

Last week, local authorities and church officials had agreed on a relocation plan.

Relocation of migrants

The curia of Pistoia is now working together with central Tuscan ASL health department to locate places and facilities that can host the migrants in small groups.

ASL will have to determine the maximum number of migrants who can stay at the Vicofaro parish, and it will issue a call for tenders to find an organisation to manage security, cleaning, and assistance to guests at the facility.

The diocese will make its facilities available free of charge.

Vicofaro parish priest Father Biancalani will put together an oversight committee for the operation.

The association Virgilio Città Futura, which has managed reception at Vicofaro thus far, will present the Region of Tuscany with a specific reception plan.

The Diocese of Pistoia issued a statement regarding the operation. "We trust in the capacity for dialogue and good will on the part of all involved, so that all of the critical issues related to the situation can be resolved," it said. "The Church of Pistoia confirms that it will immediately make available some diocesan facilities to be used to host and manage migrants currently at Vicofaro."

Pistoia mayor: "Church facility cannot accommodate large number"

Pistoia Mayor Alessandro Tomasi said in a statement that "now there are all the elements to resolve this situation."

"It is therefore essential that the commitments made at the table are respected. Finally this ordinance agrees with the positions held by the city: that the church facility could not and cannot accommodate such a high number of people and cannot be managed as it has been thus far," Tomasi said. "With this ordinance, the fact that there's a problem to solve is being put down in black and white, to protect the people being hosted and the area's residents who also have to be protected."

He added: "Now the commitments made must be respected. The majority of the guests must be transferred shortly out of the facility, which can host a maximum of 20 people as part of a reception package carried out with respect for the rules...

"Now,... it will be essential that there is no new increase of numbers at Vicofaro. This would defeat everyone's efforts," Tomasi concluded.


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