Milan officials close migrant reception area in rail station

AP News
Posted: Jun 13, 2015 9:55 AM
Milan officials close migrant reception area in rail station

MILAN (AP) — City officials have closed a migrant reception area overlooking the Milan train station's main entrance hall where hundreds have been sleeping this week amid increasing health and sanitation concerns.

Milan's Mayor Giuliano Pisapia told reporters at the station Saturday that progress has been made, saying "You can see that at the Central Station there is no more degradation."

"Now we have to resolve the problem as regards the refugees to have a situation that doesn't give the image of people sleeping on the ground without the assistance we had hoped for," Pisapia said.

Alberto Sinigallia, the head of the Progetto Arca charity, said the mezzanine area was closed overnight after a new center with beds was opened, but that about 150 migrants slept outside the station. Migrants had been received in the mezzanine, within an arm's length of passing tourists and commuters, for the last 20 months.

Some 300-400 migrants, mostly Eritreans arriving from southern Italy after being rescued at sea, have been sleeping in and around the station the last few nights because of a lack of beds in city-organized centers. Health officials say there have been over 100 cases of scabies in recent days, 500 since the beginning of the year.

The Italian State Railway is fixing up a former canteen to accommodate the migrants away from the station's main traffic, but officials said that won't be ready before early next week. The railway also has agreed to renovate another space nearby as a more permanent accommodation.

Italian cities have been struggling to cope with the huge flow of migrants brought to Sicily after rescue at sea, many of whom are seeking to join relatives and friends in northern Europe reportedly are having more difficulty crossing into neighboring countries.

Italian news channel Sky Tg24 showed images of French police blocking the border, and reported that authorities in the Italian city of Ventimiglia have set up mobile showers and toilets near the station to accommodate migrants.

Milan has become an important way station, with the city providing food, medical care and beds. Until recently, most migrants have been staying just a few days, and sometimes just hours, before continuing their journey.

More than 64,000 have passed through Milan in the last 20 months. Few request asylum here.