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IMMIGRATION

Refugees face death threats at Italian hotel

Italian police are investigating claims that dozens of immigrants have received death threats in a xenophobic letter sent to the hotel which is hosting them in Lombardy's Valtellina valley.

Refugees face death threats at Italian hotel
The 72 refugees are staying at a hotel in Sondrio. Photo: Pontla

Giulio Salvi, owner of the Hotel Bellevue in the scenic town of Sondrio, north of Bergamo, told police the threats were made against the 72 refugees in an anonymous letter he received.

“The letter contained death threats directed against the migrants,” Salvi was cited as saying in a report by Ansa.

He went to the local police, who have begun an investigation into what they believe is a race-related crime.

“See that you send away all those blacks,” said the letter, which also used profane language. “There should only be human beings at your hotel, not filth.

“If you do not do that, I will set about killing them one by one. Understood?”

After approaching the police, the owner of the three-star hotel urged his guests to exercise prudence when travelling around the local area and to avoid any kind of provocation.

Salvi, who has been hosting refugees since May 2011, organizes language courses, football matches and volunteer activities while they wait for their immigration status to be resolved.

Matteo Salvini, head of the anti-immigrant Northern League, gave a media conference in nearby Bormio on Thursday denouncing those who had “to wait for landings at Lampedusa” in order to fill their hotel rooms.

“If you need immigrants to fill your hotel it means that you have taken the wrong job,” he said.

Refugee care may cost the government up to €800 million per year, as it offers private individuals, companies and non-profit organizations up to €35 a day per person to host them. 

From that figure, hosts are supposed to give them a daily pocket money allowance of €2.50 each.

POLITICS

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area

European countries agreed on Thursday to push towards a long-stalled reform of the bloc's migration system, urging tighter control of external borders and better burden-sharing when it comes to asylum-seekers.

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area
European interior ministers met in the northern French city of tourcoing, where president Emmanuel Macron gave a speech. Photo: Yoat Valat/AFP

The EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, speaking after a meeting of European interior ministers, said she welcomed what she saw as new momentum on the issue.

In a reflection of the deep-rooted divisions on the issue, France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin – whose country holds the rotating EU presidency – said the process would be “gradual”, and welcomed what he said was unanimous backing.

EU countries backed a proposal from French President Emmanuel Macron to create a council guiding policy in the Schengen area, the passport-free zone used by most EU countries and some affiliated nations such as Switzerland and Norway.

Schengen council

Speaking before the meeting, Macron said the “Schengen Council” would evaluate how the area was working but would also take joint decisions and facilitate coordination in times of crisis.

“This council can become the face of a strong, protective Europe that is comfortable with controlling its borders and therefore its destiny,” he said.

The first meeting is scheduled to take place on March 3rd in Brussels.

A statement released after the meeting said: “On this occasion, they will establish a set of indicators allowing for real time evaluation of the situation at our borders, and, with an aim to be able to respond to any difficulty, will continue their discussions on implementing new tools for solidarity at the external borders.”

Step by step

The statement also confirmed EU countries agreed to take a step-by-step approach on plans for reforming the EU’s asylum rules.

“The ministers also discussed the issues of asylum and immigration,” it read.

“They expressed their support for the phased approach, step by step, put forward by the French Presidency to make headway on these complex negotiations.

“On this basis, the Council will work over the coming weeks to define a first step of the reform of the European immigration and asylum system, which will fully respect the balance between the requirements of responsibility and solidarity.”

A planned overhaul of EU migration policy has so far foundered on the refusal of countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to accept a sharing out of asylum-seekers across the bloc.

That forces countries on the EU’s outer southern rim – Italy, Greece, Malta and Spain – to take responsibility for handling irregular migrants, many of whom are intent on making their way to Europe’s wealthier northern nations.

France is pushing for member states to commit to reinforcing the EU’s external borders by recording the details of every foreign arrival and improving vetting procedures.

It also wants recalcitrant EU countries to financially help out the ones on the frontline of migration flows if they do not take in asylum-seekers themselves.

Johansson was critical of the fact that, last year, “45,000 irregular arrivals” were not entered into the common Eurodac database containing the fingerprints of migrants and asylum-seekers.

Earlier, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser suggested her country, France and others could form a “coalition of the willing” to take in asylum-seekers even if no bloc-wide agreement was struck to share them across member states.

She noted that Macron spoke of a dozen countries in that grouping, but added that was probably “very optimistic”.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, hailed what he said was “a less negative atmosphere” in Thursday’s meeting compared to previous talks.

But he cautioned that “we cannot let a few countries do their EU duty… while others look away”.

France is now working on reconciling positions with the aim of presenting propositions at a March 3rd meeting on European affairs.

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