CASTELNUOVO DI PORTO, Italy — When Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini ordered more than 500 migrants be evicted from Italy’s second largest reception center, called CARA, by the end of January, they only had a few days notice before they were sent to different shelters across the country.
Anthony Ehikwe was one of those migrants. For the past two years, he volunteered as an altar boy at one of the local churches in Castelnuovo di Porto, Italy. “I’m seeking asylum and protection,” Ehikwe, who’s from Nigeria, told VICE News. “I left my country because of the risk of losing my life, so I can’t go back, definitely."
But Ehikwe had to board one of the buses that took migrants away from Castelnuovo di Porto to smaller reception centers throughout the country. He worried the move could drive other migrants to crime.
“Probably most people will be living on the street and that will result to them going to the hands of mafias that deal in drugs, into prostitution, into different, different, different things, which is inhuman," Ehikwe said.
The center's closure followed a new immigration law, nicknamed the Salvini decree, which limits the number of migrants eligible for asylum, and therefore housing, in Italy.
“I refuse to spend 6 million euros per year belonging to the Italian citizens, when there is a different way to act respecting everything and everyone,” Salvini said in a Facebook Live post on Jan. 22.
The quality of services at migrant reception centers varies across Italy, but CARA in Castelnuovo di Porto was described by its residents and staff as a positive example of integration where migrants were able to work, take classes, and assimilate with the locals.
“There is no doubt about it: It is a loss for the entire community because we’ll no longer have the possibility of encountering new people, of comparing different ethnicities, ways of life, customs, traditions,” said Riccardo Travaglini, the Mayor of Castelnuovo di Porto.
This segment originally aired February 7, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.