A video showing refugees being hosed down in the cold at a reception centre on the Italian island of Lampedusa has caused consternation among lawmakers and rights groups, and thrust Italy’s most notorious migrant centre back into the spotlight.
Footage filmed secretly on a mobile phone, reportedly shot by a Syrian refugee, was broadcast by state television RAI2 on Tuesday. It appears to show men and young boys being told to strip naked outdoors so they can be sprayed for mites.
The Italian broadcaster interviewed a migrant identified as Khalid, who said he and fellow refugee-seekers were lined up and treated “like animals.”
Laura Boldrini, president of the lower Chamber of Deputies and a former spokeswoman for the United Nations refugee agency, issued a statement calling the treatment “degrading and unworthy of a civilised country.”
Boldrini pointed out that some of the migrants at the centre were survivors of one of the worst boat disasters off Europe in living memory.
At least 366 people - mostly from Eritrea - died in October when the boat carrying them sank off the shores of Lampedusa.
The video also stirred outrage among other politicians.
Lampedusa mayor Giusi Nicolini said the video made the reception centre look like a “concentration camp” and that the country should be “ashamed” of how it treats migrants.
Lampedusa in the spotlight
The video was aired on the eve of International Migrants Day, and international rights groups were already geared up to denounce Italy for the conditions at Lampedusa and other holding centres.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said the conditions in Lampedusa were unacceptable and demanded the immediate transfer of would-be refugees to other buildings on the Italian mainland where their asylum claims can be processed.
The Lampedusa centre is designed to hold some 250 people but often houses four or five times that many.
“The constant overcrowding is unsustainable and creates a situation in which treatment is provided that is below the minimum standards, despite the best efforts of humanitarian workers,” UNHCR regional chief Laurens Jolles said.
Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta has promised an investigation into the hosing down of refugees and said those responsible would be punished.
Date created : 2013-12-18