(Author: Libyan Gazette Editorial Staff)
Close to 20,000 refugees seeking asylum in Italy could be rejected from refugee centres as a result of a shortage in funding, warned the Italian interior ministry.
A shortage of 60 million euros needed to operate the reception centres could cause the centres to close their doors within a matter of weeks, leaving refugees to fend for themselves on the streets.
However, refugees could take advantage of the situation by heading towards wealthier European nations, such as Britain.
The interior ministry raised concerns that having that many refugees on the streets of Italy “could create problems of public order because of the social tensions that it risks generating.”
So far this year, about 132,000 refugees attempted to cross the Mediterranean from Libya and Egypt on unsafe vessels were rescued and sent to Italy.
Italy has been paying for the accommodations of 160,000 refugees, who are settled in government-run centres or have been placed in privately-managed centres.
The cost to feed and shelter each refugee is 25-45 euros per day.
The centres are located all over Italy, including Turin, Milan, Tuscany, Sicily, Basilicata and Calabria.
“There have never been such serious delays in payment (to refugee centres) and beyond the very high risk of no longer being able to provide assistance to asylum seekers, it also poses problems for the staff of these centres,” Giuseppe Guerini, leader of Confcooperative, a federation of non-government organizations, said to an Italian newspaper.
“For more than six months, members of staff have not received their salaries. We’re at the point of collapse.”
Angelino Alfano, Italy’s interior minister, said that there is an issue with funding but says that there is not much he can do but wait for the Italian treasury to release more money.
The application process for asylum seekers takes about six months, and if an applicant is rejected they are to be flown back to their country of origin.
Many of the refugees arriving in Italy over the last two years originate from West African countries.
Close to 235,000 refugees are waiting on the shores of Libya to make the journey across the Mediterranean Sea to Italy, warned a UN official earlier this month.
“We have on our lists 235,000 migrants who are just waiting for a good opportunity to depart for Italy, and they will do it,” said Martin Kobler, the UN’s envoy to Libya.