Val Camonica is a sleepy valley in northern Italy home to medieval villages, Roman sites and, now, a hundred refugees from Africa.
The new arrivals are being hosted in old cottages scattered in 30 villages, as part of a national program aimed at integrating refugees. They’ve been given new homes and jobs by local authorities; they are learning Italian, running hotels and restaurants and bringing tourists on guided tours of the region. Too bad Val Camonica is an exception. Between 2014 and 2016 the program involved only one eighth of Italian towns, accommodating barely 25,000 of the 156,000 refugees currently in camps across Italy.
After the closure of the Balkan route last summer thanks to an agreement between the E.U. and Turkey, the bulk of migrant flows, mainly from Sub-Saharan Africa, has shifted to Italy — and the country is struggling to cope. Amid non-stop arrivals and overflowing migrant camps, Italy is pleading with its European neighbors to help.
The Italian government has requested that more economic migrants be repatriated, more refugees be relocated across Europe, and more financial resources and stronger border agreements between Libya and Niger to limit outflows. Most pressingly i t has also asked for a revision of a relief scheme led by Frontex, the E.U’s Border and Coast Guard Agency, which makes Italy the headquarters of all sea operations, and consequently a magnet for all rescued refugee boats.