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Milan seeks help managing huge influx of migrants

Friday, June 12, 2015

Milan city officials have appealed for help in managing the huge number of migrants arriving from southern Italy after rescue at sea, as rising numbers are unable to find beds and are sleeping in the train station.

According to the Progetto Arca charity, about 350 migrants have slept in and around the station the last two nights because of a lack of beds in city-organised centres. The Red Cross dispatched a team in response to reports of scabies among migrants, “given the very serious situation in Milan’s Central Station where hundreds of migrants are staying in the entrance hall.”

The city’s top welfare official, Pierfrancesco Majorino, appealed to station officials to provide space for new arrivals to receive assistance and rest away from the main arrivals hall.

He also called for health officials to establish a permanent presence because of reports of scabies.

“Everyone would be better off, even travellers,” Majorino said in an appeal.

Milan is host to the Expo 2015 world’s fair, now in its second month and which is expected to attract over 20 million visitors during its six-month run.

While the Expo site is a half an hour ride on the metropolitan from the main station, many tourists pass through the monumental station each day.

Milan city officials say more than 64,000 migrants have passed through the Central Station in the last 20 months, with 10,000 since January 1. Most are Eritreans and Syrians fleeing conflict and oppression at home, and who avoid being officially recorded so they can reach relatives or friends in northern Europe and ask for international protection there.

Milan officials say the city finds places for some 800 people to sleep each night, including families with children, with a peak of 1,400 last August.

At Tiburtina, migrants from Syria, Eritrea, Somalia and Ethiopia were among those resting in the shade under olive and fig trees. Children played in the supermarket nearby, and dozens napped on cardboard under an overpass.

Italy is struggling to handle the summertime surge in migrants, with thousands rescued at sea each week. Almost 2,000 have drowned.

Some northern Italian regions have refused to take in more migrants sent from crowded reception centres down south, and another crisis is brewing as local authorities struggle to deal with thousands heading north under their own steam.

“People say Italy is not good for migrants, so we want to leave,” said Abdi Mohammed Adem, a 19-year-old Somali rescued 15 days ago by the Italian navy. His goal is to reach Germany or Britain, he said.

To send him to Europe, Adem’s family sold its home and paid people smugglers $7,000, he said. But now he does not have enough cash to buy a ticket to go north.

The European Union has tripled funding for rescue missions in the Mediterranean after a shipwreck killed some 800 migrants in April, but it is still trying to find a way to cope with those who arrive, and to relieve the burden on southern countries like Italy and Greece.


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