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Italian mayor blocks off streets in protest against new migrant arrivals

A Italian mayor blocked the streets around a refugee centre in protest about the number of migrants arriving in his town, prompting the anti-immigrant Lega Nord party leader, Matteo Salvini, to congratulate him.

Published: February 14, 2017, 9:21 am

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    Vitulano

    The mayor from the southern province of Benevento took drastic action on Sunday to stop more asylum seekers arriving at a centre within his municipality, ordering the only access road by blocked by a mound of earth.

    Vitulano Mayor Raffaele Scarinzi, a member of Premier Paolo Gentiloni’s centre-left Democratic Party (PD), ordered a sand wall in the street to block any new arrivals from coming to the town in southern Italy. “We don’t want any more,” he said.

    Vitulano currently has one Sprar (System for the Protection of Refugees and Asylum Seekers) centre which houses 30 migrants. The blocked access route to the accommodation stopped immigrants from reaching the hostel where they were supposed to sleep.

    Scarinzi said: “Regarding immigrants, the state must respect the agreements and rules made with local authorities.” He said there were not enough facilities set up to accommodate any more people and “too many” migrants arriving in the town.

    “Municipalities that already host one Sprar (refugee protections scheme) can not accommodate other immigrants in privately operated structures.”

    The protest erupted after the arrival of an extra 40 Muslim refugees as the migrant crisis continues, and following the closure of the Our Lady of Health community centre.

    Scarinzi denied allegations of racism. ”We are not racists, but there were no conditions to receive them. It was just a matter of organisation.

    “We were the only municipality that had a festival dedicated to refugees, included them in the football team and even involved them in a film that we shot here in Vitulano.”

    But, he said, rules must be respected. The leader of Lega Nord, Matteo Salvini, wrote on Facebook after the protest: “The mayor of Vitulano (in the province of Benevento) closed a road, blocking it to prevent the arrival of new immigrants.

    “For some he was wrong, but for me he did well! The mayor comes from the Democratic Party. Is he racist and populist too?”

    Eventually, the mayor reached an understanding with officials and it was agreed the 40 migrants will be diverted to another reception centre in Benevento.

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