The Italian province of Calabria.. a continuous influx of immigrants and “appropriate” reception mechanisms

The ports of Crotone and Roccella Unica are the main arrival points for migrants arriving in the southern Italian province of Calabria, before being transferred to the reception centers in Santana or Roccella Unica. The Mohajer News team visited the area and met with the authorities responsible for receiving immigrants, in addition to the immigrants at the Santana Center.

Calabria, in southern Italy, is known for its vast sandy beaches and olive groves lining its hillsides, not to mention its local cuisine rich in seafood and olive oil. Its inhabitants are also known for their welcoming of tourists and their “Calabrian” dialect, which Italians from other regions have difficulty understanding. But it is also known as a gateway for migrants coming across the Mediterranean to the old continent. About two years ago, the ports of this province began to see an increasing arrival of trawlers coming from Libya, Turkey and Lebanon. These landings have reached their peak in recent months, especially in the ports of Crotone and Rocilla Unica.

Illustrative map showing the ports of Crotone and Rocilla Unica. Source: Google Maps

Mahmoud Ahmed Saad, a 39-year-old Egyptian asylum seeker, arrived in the Italian province of Calabria more than a month ago after crossing the sea on a large fishing boat with about 470 other migrants. The boat left the Libyan city of Amsaed, near the Egyptian border, and spent about four days at sea until they were rescued. The immigrant has lived in Santana since his arrival in Italy. “I left Egypt to look for work, and to give my family a better life,” he says. “During the sea voyage I felt that death was very near, and we were crowded inside the boat and on its deck, but when we arrived in Italy, all the pressure and fear were gone.”

Mahmoud Ahmed Saad, an Egyptian asylum seeker living in a camp
Mahmoud Ahmed Saad, an Egyptian asylum seeker, lives in the Santana camp. Source: immigrant news

In contact with Migrant News, Giovanni Perna, the field coordinator of Doctors Without Borders in the port of Rocilla Unica, said that from the beginning of this year until the end of September, approximately eight thousand migrants arrived at the port of Rochela Unica on 130. boats, while In the whole of 2021, seven thousand immigrants arrived. He explained that the boats coming from Turkey are often small sailboats, while those coming from Libya and Lebanon are large wooden boats. Meanwhile, Inianzo Mangione, the Red Cross coordinator in charge of the “Santana” reception center, said that around four thousand migrants arrived in the province during the months of August and September alone.

The migration journey to Calabria lasts from four to seven days, which in some cases can extend to two weeks due to the lack of rescue ships in the region or the “reluctance” of the European authorities to provide assistance to the boats, especially with the existence of a law preventing fishing vessels from rendering any assistance to boats.immigrants.

What is the mechanism for receiving immigrants in the province and what does the municipality and the state offer?

In an interview with Mohajer News, Vincio Fauci, the mayor of Crotone, said that once the migrants arrive at the city’s port, the municipality takes care of the unaccompanied minors, as the municipality has 100 places to accommodate minors, of which they have 10 places added. after the crisis between Ukraine and Russia. While the rest of the immigrants move to the “Santana” center near the city. According to the same source, 250 unaccompanied minor migrants arrived in Crotone this year.

The mayor explained that a large part of the migrants do not seek asylum in Italy, and therefore receive a decision that they must leave Italian territory within a maximum period of seven days, but these migrants usually intend to leave the Italian crossing borders with other Europeans. countries, such as France and Germany.

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As for those seeking asylum in Calabria, they stay in Santana, and the state pays 40 euros per day to each asylum seeker during the reception phase, and this amount is used for food, drink, housing and healthcare Buy some fast food and drinks from the machines distributed in the center.

The municipality of Crotone is the first in Italy to grant immigrant children a “symbolic” Italian citizenship, allowing them to enter schools and obtain basic rights.

The mayor of Crotone, Vincio Fosci, in his office.  Source: immigrant news
The mayor of Crotone, Vincio Fosci, in his office. Source: immigrant news

“We always hear that immigrants are violent and don’t coexist and don’t integrate into communities, but we have thousands of them, and the problems with them are negligible,” Fauci said. Here to mingle with us and co-exist.”

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As for the mayor, who determines the number of migrants arriving on the shores of his city, it is “the policy of the current government,” and he explained: “If the government wants these migrants to arrive safely, they will arrive , but if it has plans to limit their arrival, the numbers will be lower.”

In a joint initiative between the municipality of Crotone and a local plastic artist, one of the boats that migrants took to reach the city will be restored, and then the artist will transform it into a work of art to become a monument to be in the city. According to the municipality, this work will remind people of what migrants go through at sea, and it will be an indication of what the city offers to these migrants, in addition to what the state offers to receive them and integrate them into society. .

Santana Center.. “They treat us well and provide us with everything we need”

Outside the city of Crotone, in a former military base, the prefecture has set up the “Santana” reception center for immigrants. With a capacity of 640 people, the center is run by the Italian Red Cross, and contains bedrooms, dining rooms, an office for administrative procedures and a health clinic, as well as rooms for teaching Italian to asylum seekers. Residents are also allowed to leave the center between eight in the morning and eight in the evening, as there is a bus stop next to the center that takes them to the center of Crotone.

During the Migrant News team’s visit to the centre, Egyptian, Pakistani, Nigerian and Afghan migrants agreed that they receive good care at the centre, that officials treat them with respect and kindness and that the food is of good quality and quantity.

The center contains closed sections for women and families, and is strictly controlled by security, with a constant presence of police forces in the area, in addition to inspecting migrants every time they return to the center from outside.

What drives immigrants to go to Calabria? And what is their condition when they reach it?

Based on his work, Giovanni Perna, MSF field coordinator in the port of Rocilla Ionica, believes that migrants prefer to go from Turkey to Calabria, to avoid the payment operations of the Greek Coast Guard patrols in the Aegean Sea. As for those arriving from Libya, they sometimes see Lampedusa during their journey, but decide not to stop and continue their journey to Calabria, which means an extra two or three days at sea, “because they have more have freedom of movement in Calabria, compared to Lampedusa.”

Regarding immigrants from Lebanon and Syria, Berna said: “They come on large ships with a capacity of 400 to 500 people, and they usually do not disembark in the port of Rochella, because it is small and the capacity of the reception center does not exceed 250 people, so they leave in Crotone, then the Santana center.”

Berna believes that more than 90% of migrants arriving from Turkey do not seek asylum in Italy, and intend to go to other European countries As well as the setbacks at the border with France, and therefore their task to reach other countries is not easy, and they run the risk of being arrested or deported.

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According to the official at Doctors Without Borders, migrants who arrive from Turkey are in better health and psychological conditions than those who come from Libya, because the latter are subjected to torture and servitude for long periods in Libya. Migrants usually suffer from sunburn or mixing boat fuel with seawater, in addition to depression and some chronic diseases.

According to figures from the Italian Ministry of the Interior, 71,325 migrants arrived in Italy from the beginning of this year to the end of last September, most of them Tunisians and Egyptians. Last year, 46,329 immigrants arrived.

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As the sun sets behind the hills of Crotone, and before the Egyptian Mahmoud Ahmed Saad goes to the dormitories at the “Santana Center”, the former hotel worker and father of two girls said: “I have requested asylum and am waiting for the authorities .’ replied, and for the moment I am committing to Italian language lessons and volunteering to help Those in charge of the center. I want to stay here until I get a decision on my asylum application, then I will look for a job, bring my wife and two daughters. Italy has been my destination from the beginning and I don’t want to leave.”

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