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Italian church asks EU to avoid hasty judgments on Lampedusa

Bagnasco suggests European leaders help with refugees

20 December, 13:18
Italian church asks EU to avoid hasty judgments on Lampedusa (ANSA) - Genoa, December 20 - The head of the Italian Bishops' Conference (CEI) on Friday called on the European Union to become more involved with, rather than judge, the Lampedusa refugee centre in southern Italy.

"I hope that Europe will involve itself in the situation and not just judge from the outside," said Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, head of the CEI.

He spoke after the European Commission threatened to stop EU support for Italy in dealing with the thousands of migrants who arrive every year on the island between Tunisia and Sicily.

The threat came after a video was released that showed migrants there stripping off all of their clothes outdoors before being hosed down with disinfectants.

Investigations have been launched into the incident and the government has said it is terminating its contract with the cooperative that had been running the Lampedusa migrant centre.

The government has said the International Red Cross may take over.

Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said that the images in the video, shot with a cell phone by a Syrian refugee and aired by Italian State broadcaster Rai on Monday night, were "appalling and unacceptable".

The film, partially shown on the Tg2 newscast, revealed migrants queuing in a crowded courtyard and stripping naked in mixed company in the cold winter weather while a worker sprayed them with medication.

The man who filmed the scene told State broadcaster Rai the procedure is repeated every few days on both men and women against scabies, a skin condition, at the permanently overcrowded centre which houses migrants from Africa and the Middle East who survive the perilous crossing to Italy by boat.

He said migrants residing at the centre are treated "like animals".