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UKRAINE

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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UKRAINE

Berlusconi’s bad break-up with Putin reveals strained Italy-Russia ties

The chummy relationship between former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Russian President Vladimir Putin goes back decades. The invasion of Ukraine has put it under pressure.

Berlusconi's bad break-up with Putin reveals strained Italy-Russia ties

After a tycoon bromance, Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi is struggling to break up with Russia’s Vladimir Putin over the Ukraine war — like many in his country, where ties with Moscow run deep.

The billionaire former premier’s unwillingness to speak ill of Putin is echoed by other leading Italian politicians, while in the media, there are concerns that pro-Russian sentiment has warped into propaganda.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi is committed to NATO and the EU, strongly backing sanctions against Moscow, and at his urging a majority of Italy’s MPs approved sending weapons to help Ukraine defend itself.

But much of Draghi’s coalition government — Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, Matteo Salvini’s League and the once anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) — has long pursued a “special relationship” with Moscow.

Italy used to have the largest Communist party in the West, and many businesses invested in the Soviet Union in the 1960s, while Russians in turn sought opportunities here.

Barely a month before the February 24 invasion, Putin spent two hours addressing top Italian executives at a virtual meeting.

Beds, hats, parties

Berlusconi, 85, has been out of office for more than a decade but remains influential both in politics and through his media interests, as founder of the Mediaset empire.

He was an ardent admirer of the Russian leader, and a close chum — they stayed in each other’s holiday homes, skied together and were snapped sporting giant fur hats.

“They were two autocrats who mutually reinforced their image: power, physical prowess, bravado, glitz,” historian and Berlusconi author Antonio Gibelli told AFP.

Putin gave Berlusconi a four-poster bed, in which the Italian had sex with an escort in 2008, according to her tell-all book. He in turn gave Putin, 69, a duvet cover featuring a life-sized image of the two men.

In the months before the Ukraine war, Berlusconi continued to promote his close ties, including a “long and friendly” New Year’s Eve phone call.

It was not until April, two months after Russia’s invasion, that he publicly criticised the conflict, saying he was “disappointed and saddened” by Putin.

He has struggled to stay on message since then.

Speaking off the cuff in Naples last week, he said he thought “Europe should… try to persuade Ukraine to accept Putin’s demands”, before backtracking and issuing a statement in Kyiv’s support.

“Breaking the twinning with Putin costs Berlusconi dearly: he has to give up a part of his image,” Gibelli said.

Meanwhile, the leader of the anti-immigration League, Salvini, who has proudly posed in Putin T-shirts in the past, has argued against sending weapons to aid Ukraine.

The League did condemn Russia’s military aggression, “no ifs and no buts”, on February 24 when Russia invaded.

But an investigation by the L’Espresso magazine earlier this week found that, in the over 600 messages posted by Salvini on social media since Russia invaded, he had not once mentioned Putin by name.

He did so for the first time on Thursday, saying “dialogue” with Putin was good, and encouraging a diplomatic end to the war.

‘Biased media’

Many pro-Russian figures are given significant airtime in the media, which itself is highly politicised.

“Italy is a G7 country with an incredibly biased media landscape,” Francesco Galietti, founder of risk consultancy Policy Sonar, told AFP.

TV talk shows are hugely popular in Italy, and “one of the main formats of information” for much of the public, notes Roberta Carlini, a researcher at the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom at the European University Institute.

But she warns they often “obscure facts”.

Italy’s state broadcaster RAI is being investigated by a parliamentary security committee for alleged “disinformation”, amid complaints over the frequent presence of Russian guests on talks shows.

Commercial giant Mediaset is also in hot water after airing an interview with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in which highly polemical claims went unchallenged.

It defended the interview, saying good journalism meant listening to “even the most controversial and divisive” opinions.

“RAI is a reflection of the political landscape, with its many pro-Russian parties. And Mediaset… well, Berlusconi is an old pal of Putin’s, so what do you expect?” Galietti said.

He also points to a decades-long culture in Italy of allowing conspiracy theories — particularly on the interference of US spies in Italian politics — to circulate in the media unchallenged.

“You end up with a situation where Russia Today (RT) is considered as authoritative as the BBC,” he said.

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