Pompeii chief wants refugees to tend to Italy’s ruins

Pompeii chief wants refugees to tend to Italy's ruins
A visitor walks along Via dell'Abbondanza. Photo: Nick Bramhall/Flickr
Refugees could soon be collecting litter from Pompeii's Via Dell'Abbondanza or weeding flower beds in the gardens of the city's luxury Roman villas.

At least that's if Massimo Osanna, the Archaeological Superintendent of Pompeii, gets his way.

Speaking at an event inside the ancient ruins on Saturday, Osanna told politicians and reporters that he hoped the government would consider putting the some of country's asylum seekers to work within the cultural sphere.

“They already receive a daily rate from the government without being employed in any field,” Il Mattino reported the archaeologist as saying.

In 2015, Italy saw some 121,000 migrants arrive on its shores and has seen a further 50,000 land since the beginning of the year.

A significant proportion of all arrivals end up claiming political asylum in Italy, a process that usually takes between 12 and 18 months.

While asylum claims are processed, migrants cannot work, but they receive a daily allowance of €2.50 from the government and are given free housing, healthcare, education and training.

“At the moment they are paid to be inactive. Why not employ them at some of our cultural sites?” Osanna asked.

The cost of maintaining Italy's huge cultural and historical heritage is a headache for the government, which struggles to find the millions needed to fund a never-ending stream of maintenance and restoration works.

Despite being the country's most popular historical site with three million annual visitors, Pompeii also struggles for cash.

Last year, the ruins even turned to crowdfunding to try and find the €53,000 needed to finance the restoration of a bedroom, the walls of which contain an ancient graffito perhaps scrawled by the second wife of Julius Caesar.

Osanna feels working refugees could provide a great service for Italy's cultural sites and free up money for other things.

“Generally, refugees could carry out general work such as clearing rubbish and gardening,” Osanna said, adding that refugees and migrants would not just be performing basic services.

“Among the arrivals there are architects, engineers and even archaeologists who hail from extremely cultural cities but have unfortunately been forced to flee.”