Italy’s Salvini Shuts Down Mineo, Europe’s Once Largest Migrant Center, in Sicily

Italy’s Salvini Shuts Down Mineo, Europe’s Once Largest Migrant Center, in Sicily

Italy’s hardline Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini took part on Tuesday in the closure of the migrant center of Mineo in Sicily, once the largest center for hosting migrants in Europe.

Salvini, a long-time critic of the Mineo Center not only attended its closing but also live-streamed himself walking around the facility and speaking to journalists, Al Jazeera reported.

At its peak in 2014, Mineo on the island of Sicily, a former housing complex of the U.S. military, housed a total of 4,100 migrants. The facility also employed about 400 locals.

The last 156 inhabitants of the Sicilian center were sent to another migrant center in Italy’s Calabria region last week.

Back in 2017, Salvini spent a night in the Mineo Center (pictured above), after which he declared he had witnessed “organized migration [designed to] replace Italian people with other people, Italian workers with other workers”.

He told reporters during the shutting down of Mineo that “smaller and more controlled centers” for migrants should be used instead.

Salvini emphasized the decrease in the arrivals of migrants on Italian soil since he came to office almost a year ago. According to the figures he cited, the number of migrants housed in migrant centers in Italy is presently at 107,000, down from 182,000 a year ago.

Interior Ministry figures show that 3,073 migrants have arrived in Italy so far in 2019, down from 17,000 in the same period of 2018 last year, and 85,000 in the same period of 2017.

The closure of the Mineo migrant center in Salvini’s presence, however, did not go without social protests.

“Today we celebrate the funeral of Mineo,” read a banner held by participants in a rally of about 50 former workers at the facility.

“Now Mineo can return to the real economy, that of agriculture, trade and labour, not that based on the business of illegal immigration,” Salvini retorted on Twitter.

Salvini, leader of the far-right League party, which emerged victorious in the 2019 EU elections in May, has been an outspoken critic of immigration, and has been leading a crackdown on migrant rescue ships in the Mediterranean.

Earlier on Tuesday, however, before the closing of the Mineo migrant center, a total of 47 migrants were brought to shore in the Sicilian port of Pozzallo by Italy’s financial police.

The Mineo migrant center in Sicily has been involved in several controversies, with investigations under way against the town’s former mayor and the facility’s former director over allegations of preferential awarding of contracts and the exaggeration of inhabitant numbers to get state subsidies that came with each new arrival.

(Banner image: Video grab from Matteo Salvini on Twitter)

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