Migrants must prove they are disease-free: mayors

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Health risks? A migrant sleeps rough at the Franco-Italian border. Photo: Valery Hache / AFP
15:19 CEST+02:00
Six mayors of towns in the Ligurian province of Savona have signed decrees stating that they will only accept migrants who come with a clean bill of health.

Enzo Canepa, the mayor of the seaside town of Alassio, signed the first decree, which effectively bans migrants from entering the town unless they have a health certificate proving they are free from disease.

The controversial move came after the arrival of hundreds migrants in Ventimiglia, a town further up the Ligurian coast from Alassio, and which borders France.

As Italy struggles under the migrant influx, the mayor was accused of flippantly using public health concerns as an excuse to block the arrival of immigrants in Alassio.

Andrea Chiappori, regional manager of the Sant'Egidio charity, told Il Secolo XIX that the move was "ridiculous", adding that "the correct approach is setting up a system that can welcome refugees as well as a health system that can protect both us and them."

Abdelaziz Sofi, who heads the Islamic cultural centre in nearby Albenga, slammed the measure as "racist". 

However, mayors of five other Savona municipalities have since followed suit.

"How can we manage?", Claudio Paliotto, the mayor of Zuccarello, told Il Secolo XIX.

"We are a small town with 300 inhabitants, if someone with a strange disease arrives, will we have to quarantine the whole town?”

The prevalence of scabies and tuberculosis amongst migrants has been well-documented, yet in spite of there not having been an outbreak of any infectious disease so far in Italy, there is widespread concern over the possible health risks migrants can bring.

Nearly 68,000 migrants have landed in Italy since the start of this year, according to figures compiled by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Paliotto's concerns were echoed by the mayor of Casanova, Micheal Volpati, who told the newspaper that his small town couldn't cope with the arrival of migrants after two floods and spending cuts.

“I need to protect my citizens and I say no to refugees here,” he said.

“It's not racism: once there is a clear and co-ordinated plan in place we will look at doing our bit to help."

Arci, an association that promotes for social and civil rights, described the decrees as akin to “apartheid" and called upon locals to make their voices heard in trying to overturn them.

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But Rafaella Paita, the Savona councillor for the Democratic Party, said she had a feeling the decrees would not last.

“The law cannot be used in a discriminatory way, which is something local leaders should know.”

In June, some northern provinces refused to take anymore migrants, while bus drivers in Milan told the local council that they would refuse to transport migrants until better healthcare provisions were provided.

Last week, the cardiology department at Di Venere hospital in Bari was closed after an outbreak of scabies that infected seven doctors and three nurses. It is not currently known what the source of the outbreak was, but it is sure to fuel further speculation of the health risks migrants pose.

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