Italy prepares to receive Ukrainian refugees as first coaches arrive in north

Italy is preparing to receive an influx of refugees from the Russia-Ukraine war, as Ukrainians fleeing the invasion have started arriving in the north of the country.

A bus evacuates passengers from Donetsk on February 19, 2022.
A bus evacuates passengers from Donetsk on February 19, 2022. Photo by AFP

On Sunday, a coach filled with approximately 50 people, most of them women and children, arrived in the northeastern city of Trieste, reports the Ansa news agency.

Another bus containing around 40 people, one of them a nine-month-old baby, reportedly arrived in Piacenza in Emilia Romagna after travelling through the night.

Vittorio Zappalorto, the prefect of Venice, said several hundred more have already arrived in the Veneto region. Between 300 and 440 were expected to arrive in northwestern Genoa shortly, the news agency AGI reported.

READ ALSO: Italy closes airspace to Russian planes and sends €110 million to Ukraine

Most reportedly intend to stay with relatives, friends and acquaintances in the north of the country, though some were moving south towards Rome, Ansa said.

Italy hosts one of the largest Ukrainian communities in Europe, with media outlets estimating the country’s Ukrainian population to number somewhere between 230,000 and 248,000 people.

People sit in a bus for their evacuation in Donetsk on February 19, 2022.

People sit in a bus for their evacuation in Donetsk on February 19, 2022. Photo by AFP

As the first trickle of evacuees arrived over the weekend, individual Italian cities had already begun preparing their initial crisis response, assisted by members of the Ukrainian diaspora.

Mayors from towns and cities throughout the country voiced their willingness to open their doors to Ukrainians displaced by the war, with Bologna having reportedly identified six structures that can be used to provide emergency accommodation.

Trieste has in the first instance made space to accommodate approximately 1,000 people, according to Gianfranco Schiavone, president of the non-profit Italian Solidarity Consortium-Refugee Agency (ICS).

READ ALSO: How you can help Ukrainian media

Schiavone called on Italy to put in place an operational programme to receive the large numbers of Ukrainians expected to seek asylum in Italy.

More than 500,000 people have fled the country so far, according to the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees – a figure which could rise as high as four million if the conflict intensifies.

The EU’s Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson told reporters in Brussels on Sunday that the EU should prepare to receive millions of refugees.

“I am proud of how the European citizens at the borders are showing concrete solidarity with Ukrainians fleeing this terrible, aggressive war,” she reportedly said.

READ ALSO: EU warns bloc nations to brace for millions of Ukraine refugees

Speaking at European Interior Affairs Council in Brussels on Sunday, Italy’s Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese said Italy was ready to play its part in accommodating refugees.

“For me, solidarity has always been a staple of our European agenda, and now even more so, we will offer maximum solidarity to a people who are suffering,” Lamorgese reportedly said, adding that Italy was prepared to accept additional refugees via EU redistribution quotas.

Member comments

  1. We have a large property in Umbria as anyone any idea how we can offer accomodation to displaced Ukrainian families.

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IN PICTURES: Thousands in Italy march for peace in Ukraine

Tens of thousands of Italians marched through Rome on Saturday calling for peace in Ukraine and urging Italy to stop sending of weapons to fight the Russian invasion.

IN PICTURES: Thousands in Italy march for peace in Ukraine

“No to war. No to sending weapons”, read one large banner carried by protesters, as a vast crowd broke into cries of “give peace a chance”.

People marching on November 5, 2022 in Rome holding a banner reading “Total disarmament and peace now”. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

Nato founding member Italy has supported Ukraine from the start of the war, including providing it with arms.

A man takes part in the national peace demonstration by Italian civil society organisations working together in the Europe for Peace coalition, holding a placard reading “no more war, weapons and propaganda”. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

New far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has said that will not change and the government has said it is expecting to send more weapons soon.

But some, including former prime minister Giuseppe Conte, have said Italy should be stepping up negotiations instead.

Leader of Italian populist Five Star movement M5S (Movimento Cinque Stelle), Giuseppe Conte (C) marches on November 5, 2022 in Rome. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

The peace rally was attended by some 30,000 people, Rome police told Italian media.

“The weapons were sent at the beginning on the grounds that this would prevent an escalation,” demonstrator Roberto Zanotto told AFP.

People hold banners and placards at the march on November 5, 2022 in Rome. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

“Nine months later and it seems to me that there’s been an escalation. Look at the facts: sending weapons does not help stop a war, weapons help fuel a war.”

Student Sara Gianpietro said the conflict was being dragged out by arming Ukraine, which “has economic consequences for our country, but for the respect of human rights too”.

The Group of Seven foreign ministers, including Italy, on Friday vowed to continue supporting Ukraine in the fight against Russia.

READ ALSO: Q&A: What can we expect from Italy’s new government?