DON’T SLAM THE DOOR ON YOUR WAY OUT
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What was once Europe’s largest migrant centres, in Mineo in Sicily, officially closed on Tuesday, July 9 in the presence of Italy’s and indeed the European Union’s most popular politician Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.
“My promise is kept,” Salvini, in government also as deputy prime minister for the past year, triumphantly said when the centre’s final inhabitants were removed, to be sent to another centre in Calabria.
This reception centre, a former housing complex for the US military that resembles an American suburb, is now guarded by Italian troops who block access under a roasting Sicilian sun. At its peak in 2014, Mineo housed more than 4,100 people. Its population then steadily dropped. When anti-migrant Salvini and the populist Five Star Movement came to power in June last year, it housed 2,500.
Psychologist Massimiliano Terrasi stood amid the arid countryside outside the centre where he worked since 2011, disappointed at what he said could have been. “Hopes were high when the centre first opened and we grew professionally,” he said. Well managed, it could have been an asset for the area and for people’s mutual understanding,” he lamented, voicing anger at the abrupt end to his years of work, final wages still unpaid.
“But things started to deteriorate when the population went over 3,000. “If you look at how the centre was in the end, it’s a good thing that it closed.”
Local resident Sergio Mastrilli was more supportive. “It wasn’t a reception centre built on integration but on numbers. There were more than 4,000 people from 85 different ethnicities, while Mineo community has around 5,000 inhabitants,” he said. He suggested “many migrants would like to stay in their own countries,” if they could.
The centre’s 400 small yellow and pink houses lie in tidy rows, a reminder of the time when US families from the neighbouring base at Sigonella called it home. But the US military gave up its lease in 2010, and the arrival of the reception centre and migrants made Sicilians in the area both worried and jealous.
Cheap labour to make landowners richer: The migrants were notably prepared to work for 10 or 20 euros (11-22 dollars) a day during the orange harvest, angering locals who could not work for so little.
Allegations include preferential awarding of contracts, and an exaggeration of migrant numbers to attract state subsidies that accompanied each new arrival. In January, police broke up a Nigerian organised crime drug dealing group based within the centre and a prostitution ring.
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Michael Walsh was awarded ‘Writer of the Year 2011’. With 60 books bearing his name, thousands of new stories and columns, Michael is arguably Britain and Europe’s most prolific author of multi-topic books none of which have been ghost-written.
MICHAEL WALSH is a journalist, broadcaster and the author of RISE OF THE SUN WEEL, EUROPE ARISE, TROTSKY’S WHITE NEGROES, MEGACAUST, DEATH OF A CITY, WITNESS TO HISTORY, THE BUSINESS BOOSTER and THE FIFTH COLUMN VOLUME I and II, FOR THOSE WHO CANNOT SPEAK, IMMORTAL BELOVED, THE ALL LIES INVASION, INSPIRE A NATION Volume I, INSPIRE A NATION Volume II and other book titles. These illustrated best-selling books are essential for the libraries of informed readers.
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