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Asylum seekers and inhabitants together in Ripabottoni, Molise, Italy / Photo: courtesy of James Eghosa

“Give us back the immigrants”: Italian town protests against refugee centre closure

Inhabitants of a small Italian town protested and taken action to prevent the closure of a migrant reception centre, but it was not enough. They said that the foreigners housed in the facilities were “good youths” and they always “stayed busy.”

Residents of Ripabottoni, a small town in southern Italy, have protested the closing of their migrant reception centre. “Give us back the immigrants, we want them here,” said many residents. The centre – which had been hosting 32 migrants from Senegal, Gambia, Ivory Coast, Mali and Nigeria – closed on 11 January. The decision by the Campobasso prefect’s office was met with strong opposition in the community, in which the migrants had been well integrated.

Inhabitants mobilize for foreigners

In the days leading up to the closure, the community took action to keep the centre open. Of the 350 permanent residents in Ripabottoni, 152 signed a petition to keep the centre’s doors open. Nevertheless, the immigrants were divided up last week and transferred to other towns in the Molise region. The move was supported by Mayor Orazio Civetta but not by many residents. The move meant 16 jobs were lost in the town.

Migrants ‘stayed busy’

“The migrants, who became very close, have been divided up,” said locals, including those who worked at the centre. “They were good youths and they never created any problems for us. They sang in the Catholic Church choir and revived the football team. They stayed busy, basically. A group of solidarity for them got mobilized within two days to call for them to stay.” The director of the centre, Patrizia Pano, said she was hurt by this incident. “We are very upset by what has happened. I even organized a Basic Life Support-Defibrillation (BLSD) course. The migrants were of great help and can use a defibrillator. No other centres had conducted this sort of training.” The centre was a resource for Ripabottoni for this reason. About three months ago, a Protection System for Asylum Seekers and Refugees (SPRAR) centre opened on the wishes of the mayor. “For over a year, they were working to close these reception facilities,” and in the end “we have seen what happened. I am very disappointed,” said Pano.

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