Migrants are disembarked in Reggio Calabria from the Diciotti coast guard ship | Photo: PHOTO/ARCHIVE/ANSA/MARCO COSTANTINO
Migrants are disembarked in Reggio Calabria from the Diciotti coast guard ship | Photo: PHOTO/ARCHIVE/ANSA/MARCO COSTANTINO

The Italian government wants to create 1,000 additional spots in reception facilties for refugees and migrants in the southern regions of Sicily and Calabria. It is also planning to upgrade the hotspot on the island of Lampedusa. However, there are no plans to increase spots at the frequently overcrowded Lampedusa facility.

The Italian government wants to double the number of places available in hotspot facilities in the southern regions of Sicily and Calabria with "at least 1,000 more places", the commissioner for the migrant emergency, Valerio Valenti, said on Tuesday (May 16).

Inside centers in the two regions, specific areas will be dedicated to those who must be repatriated, using places that were formerly available in residence and repatriation centres (CPR), according to the commissioner.

Different facilities across the regions

The new 1,000 places will be made available in a reported 10 facilities including in Vizzini, Pozzallo, Catania, Messina, Caltanissetta and Trapani in Sicily -- using two properties confiscated from the mafia by authorities -- and in Vibo, Roccella and Crotone in Calabria.

Civil protection facilities in Sicily and Calabria, including lodgings, towers, lighthouses and housing modules, will also be used to host migrants.

Increasing hosting capacities and restructuring how asylum seekers are distributed are among key policies recently announced by the Italian government. The goal is to promote a model of 'widespread reception' for migrants and refugees arriving in Italy, with more small centers spread throughout the country. Prefects are supposed to identify small-sized extraordinary hosting centres (CAS) for asylum seekers.

The infrastructure ministry is also planning to intensify sea and air transfers of new arrived migrants.

Lampedusa hotspot will be run by Red Cross

Valenti made the announcement during a press conference in Rome, which focused primarily on the fact that Italian Red Cross (CRI) will take over the management of the Lampedusa hotspot starting on June 1.

Valenti's goal is to create contracts to provide goods and services to centers of first hosting as of July 1, when new rules for public-sector tenders under a revamped procurement code will come into force.

The Italian Red Cross has already signed two protocols with the Italian Red Cross: a three-year-long agreement for the Lampedusa hotspot and a framework protocol which will allow the organization to intervene during emergencies. Valenti said that Red Cross workers can, for example, intervene in Pozzallo, Sicily, or in the northern city of Ravenna, if an NGO-run vessel disembarks migrants.

"It is an agreement that can be adjusted depending on cases", Valenti explained.

Lampedusa hotspot will be upgraded

The plans for the Lampedusa hotspot do not involve creating additional places on top of the just under 400 that are already available.

However, there are plans to improve the facility: upgrading the electrical system, replacing old fixtures, adding bathrooms and showers and creating a shaded area outside for migrants who are forced to sleep outdoors when the facility is overcrowded.

Specific areas will be devoted to minors, with specialized personnel, and to women.

More medical personnel will reportedly soon be available with some 70 Red Cross operators on the ground, with additional personnel volunteering in the summer in order to have a ratio of one CRI operator every 10 migrants.

Overcrowding at reception center

The reception facility on the small Italian island of Lampedua has frequently been severely overcrowded. Because of its location -- roughly halfway between the coasts of Tunisia and Libya and the rest of southern Italy -- Lampedusa sees a large number of migrants and refugees arrive on its shores.

Italian Red Cross President Rosario Valastro said the objective is to ensure "dignified hosting from a human standpoint" to migrants, ensuring that the hotspot becomes an "example of humanity". The same concept was expressed by commissioner Valenti, who stressed the need to "improve hosting offered by the facility while reducing its impact" on the island.

"Some changes will need to be made to provide hosting worthy of a human being", stated Ignazio Schintu, the Italian Red Cross' director of emergency and rescue operations. "Our concern will be to help the municipal administration", he said.

"We will provide to that territory all the means to support national emergencies", said Schintu, including increasing the number of doctors, helping communication with migrants' relatives and cleaning services so Lampedusa can become the "pride of the hosting system in Italy."


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