Migrant center shut down by Italy’s far-right government
What was once Europe’s biggest migrant reception center, in Mineo in Sicily, is to officially close on Tuesday in the presence of its biggest critic, farright Interior Minister Matteo Salvini.
“Promise kept,” Salvini, in government also as deputy prime minister for the past year, said last week when the center’s final inhabitants were removed, to be sent to another center in Calabria.
This reception center, a former housing complex for the US military that resembles an 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 center where he worked since 2011, disappointed at what he said could have been.
“Hopes were high when the center first opened and we grew professionally,” he told AFP-TV.
“Well managed, it could have been an asset for the area and for people’s mutual understanding,” he said, voicing anger at the abrupt end to his years of work, final wages still unpaid.
In the beginning, care and hygiene conditions were decent, he said. But things started to deteriorate when the population went over 3,000.