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How Italy Is Coping With The Migrant Crisis

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

The human wave of migrants flooding into Europe is continuing. But one thing has changed. Italy now finds itself managing the crisis mostly on its own. So far this year, nearly 95,000 people have risked the dangers of the Mediterranean to reach Italian shores. Most of them come from sub-Saharan Africa by way of Libya. To find out how the country is coping, we've reached out Federica Dieni, a member of the Italian Parliament. She represents the southernmost region of Calabria, where many migrants arrive. She'll be speaking through an interpreter. Welcome to the program.

ELISABETTA LAMBERTINI: Buongiorno.

FEDERICA DIENI: Grazie.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You are originally from Reggio in the south. That town has received over 7,000 arrivals this year alone. What does life in the town feel like?

DIENI: (Through interpreter) The migrants arrive at the port of Reggio Calabria. And then they get directed to different centers. But during the day, you can see them, for example, standing at traffic lights and begging for money, often without many clothes on them. And they ask for money to citizens of the city who are also fairly poor and don't have much money to spare. So overall, you can feel and see a sad situation.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Calabria is, as you mentioned, a very poor area of Italy. What happens to the migrants once they come ashore? What resources do they have there to help them?

DIENI: (Through interpreter) Once the migrants arrive, they're welcomed by the civil protection forces and other local authorities. And then they're taken to defense centers all through Italy. Some are taken to temporary welcoming structure where they can live temporarily. Unaccompanied minors need to be directed to separate structures.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What do you think, being from there, about this situation? Does it feel that it's manageable, or does it feel unsustainable?

DIENI: (Through interpreter) It is currently a very difficult situation, especially with the high level of unemployment, particularly in the young population. And citizens have difficulties to accept that funds can be found to manage migrants but not for them. So it's really heavily felt this, especially in regions like Calabria that are already poor.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Some officials in other parts of Italy have said that they will not accept migrants. What do you feel about that?

DIENI: (Through interpreter) It's a bit of a paradox, but the poorest regions are actually the most welcoming, while richer regions could do more to help. And that would definitely reduce the gap in logistics and also increase the acceptance of migrants by citizens.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What about other European countries? Many in Italy think there hasn't been much support from them so far. Are you disappointed?

DIENI: (Through interpreter) I think the European Union was born as a community to help all the nations that are part of it. And in time, it became more like a federation where all members think for themselves. For example, there has been an intervention on the Balkan route of entry for migrants. But Italy, who is on the forefront of the entry by sea, has been left to fight the situation mostly on its own. Financial help is not sufficient when you have to deal with so much logistics, especially when there are a lot of women and children that put their life at risk to come by boat, crossing the sea.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What is your message about the situation right now in Calabria?

DIENI: (Through interpreter) I think that the European Union should take responsibility for this situation. And we would like to welcome more migrants that have the right to stay. And we also should deport migrants that do not have the right to stay. The region has the duty to provide their citizens with adequate opportunities. So a situation like this can create lots of conflicts.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Federica Dieni is a member of the Italian Parliament. Thank you very much. (Speaking Italian).

DIENI: (Speaking Italian).

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And also our thanks to Elisabetta Lambertini, who interpreted this conversation for us. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.