20th Aug 2022

Italy corruption probe targets migrant centres

  • Migrants selling bags in Venice (Photo: Ben Philabaum)

High-ranking officials are under investigation for plundering funds from state-run immigration centres, as thousands of new arrivals reach Italian shores.

The Ansa news agency on Friday (5 June) reported that Italy’s undersecretary for agriculture, Giuseppe Castiglione, is under investigation, along with five other officials, for his alleged involvement in the so-called “Mafia Capitale” scandal.

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Castiglione, who is a member of the New Centre Right (NCD) party, has denied being involved in the rigging of a public contract for the Cara di Mineo migrant reception centre in Sicily.

"For the second time in six months, I find out through the press that I may be probed for alleged involvement in the Cara di Mineo affair," he said.

Italian prosecutors last week arrested dozens of people involved in a broader affair which links Rome city officials, including a former mayor, with a crime syndicate led, from prison, by Massimo Carminati.

The crackdown comes amid a surge of new migrant arrivals as the EU-led Triton Mediterranean border surveillance mission enters into full swing.

The multinational flotilla plucked almost 6,000 people from the sea over the weekend, pushing the number of arrivals in Italy for this year alone to over 50,000.

The figure represents around a 10 percent increase over the same period last year.

Most are being disembarked in Sicily and elsewhere along Italy’s southern extremities, with local officials complaining of overstretched systems.

Fabrice Leggeri, who heads the EU’s border agency Frontex, announced last month they will deploy a regional team to Sicily to help.

The team will work with local authorities and other EU agencies, such as the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), the EU’s police agency (Europol), and EU's judicial co-operation body (Eurojust).

“What we can do is collect evidence, we can identify the migrants, collect as much evidence as possible, concerning the nationality, concerning the routing of the person, the name, the origin,” he said.

The extra help has not alleviated concerns among regional leaders.

The AFP on Monday (8 June) reported that the regional presidents of Lombardy, Liguria, and Veneto are to refuse to house new arrivals allocated by the prime minister Matteo Renzi’s government.

"We will not receive any more migrants," said Liguria’s newly elected president Giovanni Toti.

The Lombardy president, Roberto Maroni, will also warn local mayors and prefects on Monday against accepting any more "illegal immigrants".

The European Commission is pushing to make member states relocate some 40,000 arrivals from Syria and Eritrea over a two-year period in an effort to ease the pressure on Greece and Italy.

The plans, presented late last month, still need the backing of national governments and are being met with resistance from big member states, including France and Spain.

Some 220,000 irregular migrants reached Greece and Italy last year.

Among those, around 40 percent were Syrians and Eritreans. Both nationalities have a high chance of receiving asylum once in the EU.

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The EU commission wants to pay member states €6,000 for every asylum seeker they take under a new relocation scheme to help Italy and Greece cope with demands.

Report: EU asylum plan likely delayed

Emergency plans for national governments next week to possibly distribute arriving Eritrean and Syrian asylum seekers will now likely be delayed for months.

Greek PM embroiled in spyware scandal

Greece has become embroiled in a wiretapping scandal that led to the resignation of its intelligence chief as well as the Greek prime minister's top aide.

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