No more migrants!
That is the message from the mayor of Rome who has called for a halt to asylum seekers arriving in the Italian capital.
More than half a million migrants have reached Italy by boat from North Africa since 2014, and almost 200,000 are being housed in state-funded centres while they put forward asylum requests.
The government is responsible for relocating new arrivals from the southern coasts to the rest of the country.
But Rome Mayor Virginia Raggi has written to the interior ministry asking for Rome to be removed from the list.
“This administration hopes the decisions about where to put new centres will take into account the evident pressure migration is putting on Rome, and the consequences which may be devastating socially and for the protection of the people they are built for,” Raggi said in the letter.
In a Tweet, the mayor repeated that message, saying that the city is under strong pressure from migration and that it can’t go on.
Raggi’s opposition, anti-establishment 5-Star Movement performed badly in local elections on Sunday, failing to make the run-off in 24 of the main 25 cities called to pick a mayor.
Critics claim that targeting migrants is a bid to drum up grass roots support. Italian media said centre-left Democratic Party leader and ex-premier Matteo Renzi was among those making that allegation.
M5S attacking migrants to cover flop - 'They've been smart', we can't do the aame says PD leader https://t.co/SAXFIxXs00— Ansa English News (@ansa_english) 14 juin 2017
Andrea Costa, director of the Baobab Experience volunteer group which has set up impromptu kitchens and tents for migrants in a run-down area of eastern Rome, derided Raggi’s letter.
“With a wink at the worst of the xenophobic right wing, Raggi hopes to bounce back from her movement’s electoral flop,” Costa wrote on Facebook.
Those on the front line of caring for refugees also slammed the move.
“Compared to last year, the number of migrants has increased but we are not in an alarming phase,” Italian Red Cross President Debora Diodati told Euronews.
“We can’t close our eyes and pretend not to see those people arriving on Italian coasts and then in Rome too. It is a matter of humanity. These people deserve a future, a different future from the one they escaped from.”
Managing the migrant influx has become one of the thorniest issues for Italy’s government, which is run by the Democratic Party (PD), the 5-Star’s rival.
Only around a third of Italy’s 8,000 city governments have offered to shelter asylum seekers.
In Rome, police have repeatedly cleared out temporary camps for people trying to reach Northern Europe, citing security concerns.