“In previous years, we saw much fewer ships here. Only eighty to one hundred people per ship came ashore. This year, there are sometimes 500 people a day,” says Concetta Gioffrè, who is in charge of the Red Cross in the area. She’s not entirely sure what caused this sudden increase. “In the beginning we mainly saw people from Syria, Iraq and Iran. In September and October, this became a stream of Afghans. And the last times it was all Egyptians. We don’t really understand what geopolitical forces are at play here.”
The Public Prosecution Office of Calabria is investigating the increase in migration across the region. “We need to go beyond the interception of individual ships and the arrest of smugglers to understand the phenomenon,” Prosecutor Giovanni Bombardieri told The Associated Press. He added that the possible involvement of the ‘Ndrangheta gang, the Calabrese Mafia, is also under investigation. He may be working with smugglers to make money from migrants on their land.
Scabies and aura
Whatever the reasons, the fact is that the reception system of the Roccella Ionica is not suitable for large groups of people who have arrived there recently. Since the reception facility at the center has become so small, there has been a large 180-bed tent to camp in the harbor since October.
“We’d have preferred to make it more comfortable, indoors too,” says Concetta Gioffrè. “But these numbers do not allow that.” Of the 250 migrants currently residing there, 140 have to share a bed. They do not find this a problem themselves, some young people say: “The situation here is better than in Libya.” But Geoffrey does have concerns. “At the moment they are all still together. We are now trying to isolate people who have scabies or who have tested positive for coronavirus.”
Insufficient number of volunteers
Migrants should not stay in the tent for long. Under Italian rules, the municipality where people arrive will provide shelter, medical care and meals until they are registered and transferred to the quarantine ship. This will take a few days at most.
“The biggest problem for us is that rescue operations have been going on since July 29,” said Vittorio Zito, mayor of Roccilla Ionica. His village has a population of only 6000. “Our volunteer system is clearly not set up for this. These people are of course not available 24 hours a day to help.”
Restrooms and chemical meals will be reimbursed by the government, but only within a year. “In 2019 it was about 28 thousand euros, that’s one thing. Now we’re more than half a million euros. Our budget doesn’t have that capacity.”
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