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Salvini visits Minneo. Screenshot from Facebook

Salvini keeps promise closing Europe’s largest migrant reception centre

On 8 July, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini witnessed the closure of the Migrant Reception Center in Mineo, in eastern Sicily. Salvini has kept a promise he made last January.

Published: July 10, 2019, 7:40 am

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    “In 2017 I slept in one of the centres that housed the immigrants, with lots of air conditioning and a TV dish, and I promised that I would come back and close it permanently,” Salvini tweeted on Tuesday.

    Once the largest migrant reception centre in Europe, located in Mineo, near Catania, officially closed on 9 July in the presence of its biggest detractor, anti-immigration Lega leader Salvini.

    “Promise held,” the popular leader said a week ago, when the last migrants were transferred from the center of CARA Mineo to another megastructure in Calabria, south-west of Italy.

    The native of Milan had announced his intention to empty the asylum centre earlier, as well as “all other major centers [of the country]” before the end of the year 2019. Mineo had experienced a peak attendance in July 2014 with more 4 100 residents, before gradually seeing its population decrease.

    When Matteo Salvini arrived at the Ministry of the Interior in June 2018, they were 2 500 migrants housed there.

    The reception center was created on a former military base housing the families of American soldiers stationed at the nearby Sigonella base. Its installation had caused the concern of the inhabitants of the region, especially the poor.

    In particular, foreigners were criticized for entering the market for day laborers during the harvest of oranges. Migrants were being employed without being officially declared for a mere 10 to 20 euros per day.

    “The closure of Mineo is the inexorable epilogue of a great illusion, in a land hungry for jobs,” says Nello Musumeci, right-wing president of the Sicilian region.

    Several judicial investigations are ongoing, including against the former mayor of the Mineo commune and the former director of the centre. Among the charges against them, are corruption in the award of contracts, and the creation of false costs to inflate the figures since each migrant is entitled to a fixed daily amount paid by the government.

    “Now Mineo can return to the real economy, that of agriculture, commerce and labor, not that based on the business of illegal immigration,” Salvini said as he hailed the closure of the CARA centre.

    In January, the police even dismantled a Nigerian mafia cell based in the heart of the centre, which ran a cocaine and marijuana smuggling ring as well as a prostitution ring.

    Salvini said police probes had discovered the activity of “mafias, not only Italian but also Nigerian”, based at the CARA. “They expanded as a drug dealing operation in the whole local area”, he said.

    “Now the CARA is closing and it is a beautiful morning”. The government had steadily reduced the numbers at Mineo.

    Salvini has issued two decrees on migrants and security, the second very recently. He has been accused of stripping illegals of “basic rights”, marginalising them and exposing them to criminality.

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