Italy plans to detain thousands of migrants

Refugees | The stressed country is struggling to keep up with the crisis
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 5/10/17, 10:45 am

Italy’s interior minster on Tuesday asked regional governments to provide 1,600 beds for new and existing deportation centers in a bid to speed up deporting illegal migrants. Activists criticized the centers as inhumane as migrant arrivals from Libya this year approached 50,000.

Italy’s Marco Minniti said the detention centers would open within the next few months as a means of stopping migrants from slipping away before they could be deported. Italy has four centers and plans to open 16 new ones. Minniti first announced the plan in February, saying the country would deport migrants who don’t qualify for protection and are in violation of the law.

The ongoing plan shows the country’s desperation. Italy in the past shut down similar centers due to violence and difficulty identifying the migrants. Migrant arrivals to Italy have increased by more than 9,000 this year compared to last year, according to the International Organization for Migration. Workers over the weekend rescued 6,600 migrants at sea, with about 200 more missing.

Marta Foresti, a managing director at the U.K.-based Overseas Development Institute, said Italy’s heightened migrant flows have increased pressure on the country especially because other European nations have not proffered any solutions. But the detention camps could leave migrants in overcrowded centers with no definite timeframe and limited access to legal assistance or healthcare. Christian Ani, a researcher with the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa, said the migrants’ lack of legal status in the country also creates an opportunity for human rights abuses to go unpunished.

Sen. Luigi Manconi of Italy’s ruling party told Reuters the former detention centers phased out because officials at the time failed to identify most of the migrants’ nationalities for deportation.

“If they didn’t work before, the solution isn’t to create a bunch of new ones,” Manconi said.

Foresti said the solution should involve all European countries sharing the responsibility. She called on the continent to jointly welcome and resettle refugees in line with the EU framework on international protection. In the case of economic migrants and others who don’t qualify for international protection, Foresti said other European countries could also assist with integrating and repatriating them.

“It would be good to see newly elected [French] President Macron step up to the challenge,” Foresti said.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.

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