Mineo migrant centre, once Europe’s largest migrant reception centre, on the Italian island of Sicily has now been officially shut down. Calling it a centre of “drugs, prostitution and violence” during his tour of the centre on Tuesday (9 July), Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has also said he wants to deploy military ships to keep migrants away. The Mineo migrant center, a former US military base, housed as many as 4,100 migrants in 2014, but now, as Salvini triumphantly announced, it houses “zero,” adding that “Mineo is closing and it’s a beautiful morning.”
After the last 152 residents were evicted from the site last week and relocated to another center in Calabria, the Mineo center has since been guarded by Italian soldiers. Salvini also told reporters during a short press conference that police had found that Italian and Nigerian mafias had “expanded as a drug-dealing operation in the whole local area.” The far-right Five Star leader also noted that he had urged his Tunisian counterpart to stem the flow of migrants departing from the North African country and to take back as soon as possible those Tunisians that Italy turns away.
Some 3,126 migrants have arrived in Italy during the first six months of 2019, most of whom have hailed from Tunisia, followed by Algeria, Bangladesh, Iraq, Ivory Coast, and Pakistan. Italian government plans to provide more funding aimed at preventing migrant arrivals by sea, which also includes Salvini’s desire to deploy military ships and air patrols to keep migrants away from Italy. Rome will also give 10 motorboats to the Libyan coastguard so that smugglers’ vessels can be intercepted before they get to international waters.