Unaccompanied minors disembark from the Geo Barents, a ship operated by Doctors Without Borders | Photo: ANSA/MSF
Unaccompanied minors disembark from the Geo Barents, a ship operated by Doctors Without Borders | Photo: ANSA/MSF

The organization ANCI has said that while Italy's municipalities are willing to receive migrants, they need better long-term planning and coordination from the national government when it comes to migrant reception.

Italy's National Association of Italian Municipalities (ANCI) outlined its position on a new migration decree during a commitee hearing at the lower house of the national parliament. The hearing was part of a joint session of the committees for constitutional affairs and transportation committees, which are examining a decree law tightening regulations concerning NGO ships used for migrant rescues.

Read more about the decree: International law and the criminalization of sea rescue

Only disembark unaccompanied migrant children where appropriate reception nearby

Matteo Biffoni, who is in charge of immigration affairs for ANCI, said that municipalities were willing to receive migrants but needed more transparency and better coordination.

"Municipalities are more than willing to take responsibility for those who arrive after disasters at sea, but there is a need to know the ways and criteria behind the choice of ports for disembarkation to plan and render the activities manageable in an ordinary manner. We need to plan, otherwise everything will be more complicated," he said during the parliamentary hearing.

He said that ANCI would propose a change to the decree to make sure that unaccompanied minors would only disembark in places with appropriate accommodation nearby. "We intend to amend the measure, asking that the disembarkations happen only in areas where there are centers for initial reception for unaccompanied minors. There need to be hubs specifically for these guests," Biffoni said.

The number of migrants and refugees under the age of 18 in Italy without their family has risen in recent years. Some 20,000 are reportedly now registered on a platform for centers for unaccompanied minors, compared with 6,000 in 2019. 

Also read: Italy introduces new rules for NGO sea rescues

Nearly 4,000 migrants disembarked in less than two weeks at start of 2023

"Disembarkation operations happen in ports that are territory of the state, not of the municipalities. There is thus a need for maximum collaboration of the state," Biffoni added. 

During the first 13 days of the year, he said, some "3,891 people disembarked, a figure that confirms the need to maintain places within the SAI [reception and integration system managed by the municipalities], already funded for the Ukraine emergency, by implementing an extension to December 31 of this year." 

The ANCI representative also called on the Italian government to launch a "roundtable coordinated at the national level to deal with this exceptionally large flow of non-EU citizens."

Biffoni said that the decree being examined was "the latest of many legislative reforms in only a few years and this will have a significant effect on the issue, leading to a series of consequences, organizational stress on a system constantly subjected to changes of direction."

"We need," he added, "a direction to follow in a definitive manner and to be involved in a discussion that leads to the drawing up of regulations." 


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