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How can people in Italy offer Ukraine refugees a place to stay?

Italy's local authorities are working on plans to accommodate hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees expected to arrive in the country, and have asked residents to get in touch if they can help.

How can people in Italy offer Ukraine refugees a place to stay?
People demonstrate in support of Ukraine in the northern Italian city of Milan, on February 26tg, 2022. Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th, more than two million people have already left their homes in search of refuge in other countries.

 Italy has one of the largest Ukrainian communities in Europe, with around 250,000 people, Therefore it’s thought very likely that a large number of people fleeing the conflict will travel to stay with family and friends in Italy.

But with up to 900,000 Ukrainian refugees expected to arrive in Italy in the coming weeks, many thousands more will be in need of emergency accommodation.

So far some 24,000 Ukrainian refugees are known to have arrived in Italy, the prime minister told parliament on Wednesday.

READ ALSO: How is Italy responding to the Ukraine refugee crisis?

Italian authorities have pledged to step in to provide temporary accommodation in, for example, former care homes and buildings which were used as Covid ‘hotels’ during the pandemic, though this alone is expected to be insufficient.

Many people in Italy, including The Local’s readers, would like to offer refugees a place to stay in their own homes or in properties normally used for Airbnb or short-term rental.

But how do you get in touch with the relevant authorities to offer assistance?

The refugee reception effort is being managed at a local and regional level in Italy, with very little coordination by the national government. This means that what you need to do will vary depending on where you live.

Some local authorities have provided online contact information for residents of Italy who want to offer refugees a place to stay in their own homes.

The Veneto region seems to be leading the way on this. The north-eastern region, which has a large Ukrainian population and expects to receive tens of thousands of refugees, has made an online form available for anyone wishing to offer accommodation. Find it here.

Announcing the system on Saturday, March 5th, Veneto’s regional president Luca Zaia said: “To be effective, the reception effort needs to be organised”, adding that the region’s residents “have big hearts and a generosity that knows no bounds”.

Refugees after crossing the border into Poland on March 9, 2022. – The UN says 143,000 fled Ukraine in the last 24 hours, with the total number of refugees topping 2.15 million. Photo by Louisa GOULIAMAKI / AFP

The Lombardy region, which has the biggest Ukrainian population in Italy, is preparing to receive up to 100,000 people fleeing the war. People living in Lombardy who would like to offer accommodation to refugees can contact charity organisation Caritas Ambrosiana by sending an email to [email protected] or by calling 02.40703424. They will need to leave contact details, their address, details of how many people can be hosted, for how long, and any costs involved.

The city of Milan alone expects some 40,000 people to arrive from Ukraine. In preparation, the Ukrainian Consulate, working with the local Prefecture, is asking anyone willing to host refugees in the city to get in touch using this form.  The consulate also asks anyone living in Milan who is hosting Ukrainian family or friends to inform them by emailing [email protected]

Also in Lombardy or in neighbouring Piedmont, you can contact the Arca Solidale organisation. They have also provided a form for those wishing to welcome refugees.

In Rome, the Caritas organisation has begun mapping resources available for refugees. If you can host refugees in the city you can get in touch via this form.

The city of Bologna, which currently has 400 beds available via municipal authorities, asks anyone wishing to offer hospitality or help to send an email to [email protected] including their personal details and a phone number.

A child with her dog after crossing the Ukrainian-Polish border in Medyka on March 9, 2022. Photo by Louisa GOULIAMAKI / AFP

Note that all of the above forms should be filled out in Italian, and though it may be possible to communicate with authorities in English by email, it’s likely that you’ll get a faster response if you write your email in Italian.

If you are elsewhere in Italy, there are two options: contact your local authorities or use a nationwide or international platform.

Many towns are launching their own welcome initiatives for refugees. The municipality of Troia in the southern region of Puglia, for example, is offering refugees board and lodging if they already have family in the area.

Though many municipalities say they are still working on making arrangements, some have already announced concrete plans for some level of provision.

As towns, cities and regions are rolling out their own initiatives all the time, it is impossible to provide an exhaustive list.  

Information about any initiatives where you are can be found on regional or municipal websites in many cases, though as these are not always updated some readers of The Local tell us they went directly to their town’s comune (town hall) to ask for information in person.

Across Italy, the organisation Refugees Welcome Italia has set up a platform allowing people to register their availability to host.

The Europe-wide platform ICanHelp.Host was set up by volunteers from Belarus in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. 

Ukraine Take Shelter is another website offering this service. This site is worldwide, and those wishing to offer housing can create an account to list their home or apartment and offer information such as whether children are welcome, what languages they speak, and how long refugees will be able to stay.

If you cannot accommodate refugees but would like to make a charitable donation, the main fundraising organisations active in Italy include the Italian Red Cross , Caritas Ambrosiana , Emergency, Soleterre Onlus, Doctors Without Borders, Terre des Hommes, and Progetto Arca.

Please get in contact with The Local at [email protected] or leave a comment under this post if you know of any other ways in which private individuals can offer housing to Ukrainians looking for shelter.

Although we have done our best to verify these housing services, we recommend that anyone looking to offer or rent housing via a service listed above take precautions to verify the identity of anyone they will be staying with and ensure all legal documents are in order.

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Italian energy company to start paying for Russian gas in rubles

Italian energy company Eni confirmed it is opening accounts in rubles with Gazprombank to pay for gas supplies, complying with Moscow's demands.

Italian energy company to start paying for Russian gas in rubles

Eni said in a statement on Tuesday it was opening accounts in rubles and euros with Gazprom Bank “on a precautionary basis” as “deadlines for the payment of gas supplies are scheduled for the next few days”.

It was not immediately clear whether the move would fall foul of European Union sanctions, although Eni said it was “not incompatible”.

The company said its decision to open the accounts was “taken in compliance with the current international sanctions framework” and that Italian authorities had been informed.

READ ALSO: Italy will ‘soon’ stop buying gas from Russia, says minister

Vladimir Putin demanded at the end of March that payment be made in rubles or the gas supply to European countries would be cut off, as he hit back at sanctions placed on Russia by EU countries following its invasion of Ukraine.
Eni’s CEO Claudio Descalzi said at the time that his company would not comply with the demands, saying “Eni doesn’t have rubles” and “the contracts say fuel payments should be made in euros”.
But many European companies and their lawyers have since been looking at ways to meet the demand without breaching sanctions aimed at punishing Russia for the war in Ukraine, reports Bloomberg.
EU officials had said opening a ruble account would breach sanctions. But its latest guidelines, to be published this week, are expected to stop short of banning bank accounts in rubles and  therefore allow companies to keep buying Russian gas, Bloomberg reports.
Like other European countries, Italy says it is working to reduce its heavy reliance on Russian energy imports in the wake of the Ukraine war.

But the Italian government has so far resisted calls to boycott Russian oil and gas.

Italy is highly dependent on Russian gas, importing 95 percent of the gas it consumes, of which around 40 percent comes from Russia.