Italy's Matteo Salvini live broadcasts closure of one of Europe's largest migrant centres

Italy's Matteo Salvini live broadcasts closure of one of Europe's largest migrant centres
By Rachael Kennedy with Reuters
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Italy closed its Mineo refugee camp on Tuesday, which was at one point Europe's largest.


Italy has closed one of Europe's largest migrant camps amid its tightening of legislation against housing asylum seekers.

The camp near Mineo, Sicily, was at some points home to up to 4,000 people, despite having a maximum capacity of half this figure.

It was formerly used as a US military residential complex with its spread of 400 redbrick houses, before becoming the Accommodation Centre for Asylum Seekers (CARA).

But new legislation, which was approved last year, means Italy can be more selective on the protection and housing it grants to migrants travelling into the country.

Asylum will continue to be granted to those fleeing warzones and political persecution, but will not be granted on further humanitarian grounds.

Such grounds will include people fleeing brutal laws in their home countries against their sexuality.

Live-streaming his walk through the empty camp on Tuesday, Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said the overpopulated centre had become a haven for crime, and he had kept his promise to Italy by closing it.

"This was a promise I made not only to the Sicilians but the Italians," he said.

"The biggest migrant centre in Europe, a business of dozens and dozens of millions of Euros, and it had become, as proven by the prosecutor's office, a centre base for the Nigerian mafia, for drug dealing, prostitution, theft and stolen goods, aggression, violence, rape and homicide in Palagonia, just a short distance from here."

But the Mineo centre was also a great source for employment, having upheld hundreds of jobs.

Local mayor Giuseppe Mistretta has demanded "reassurances for the post-Cara future" from Salvini for the futures of the hundreds of workers.

In an interview with Catania Today, he said "the residence must not be left as an island in the desert", and that meetings were necessary "to plan for the future."

Several dozen people also took part in a protest at the closure of the centre on Tuesday.

Salvini is widely known for his anti-immigration policies in Europe, having closed the country's ports to boats carrying migrants who had been rescued while crossing the Mediterranean from Africa.

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