Monday 19 March 2018

Milan's chiefs appeal to EU for help as Central Station floods with refugees

A family of migrants on their way to western Europe rest at a train station in Demir Kapija, Macedonia. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
A family of migrants on their way to western Europe rest at a train station in Demir Kapija, Macedonia. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Tunisia’s navy rescued more than 350 illegal migrants off its coast and was searching for hundreds more after they tried to sail from Libya to the Italian island of Lampedusa, the local Red Cross said. Photo: Reuters

Colleen Barry

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 organised centres.

The Red Cross dispatched a team to the city yesterday 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 this week 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.

Yesterday, the European Union urged its 28 members to swiftly endorse its plan to relocate 40,000 refugees - a plan that grew even more urgent as Greece saw a record number of migrants arrive by sea.

The plan to relocate refugees arriving in Italy and Greece with their EU partners is part of efforts to cope with the massive influx of migrants that has already seen more than 100,000 people cross the Mediterranean into Europe this year. Around 2,000 have died or are missing.

However, a number of EU nations have objected to the plan. "We need to act now and not in four months," EU migration spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud told reporters in Brussels.

Greek authorities said yesterday that more than 1,000 people had entered the country by sea in a day, bringing its five-month total to about 50,000 - well above the number of migrants who arrived in Greece for all of 2014.

Greece is a close second to Italy in migrant arrivals this year. Milan is host to the Expo 2015 world fair, now in its second month and 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.

Irish Independent

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