Italy in crisis over Albanian influx

Overwhelmed by more than 10,000 refugees who have poured across the Adriatic from Albania in the past week, Italy yesterday declared its own state of emergency to match that of its anarchic Balkan neighbour.

The government announced it was setting aside some pounds 25m to provide shelter, food and medicine to Albanians over the next three months and agreed to give the "refugees" temporary residence papers until conditions improved back home.

Although intended to make Italy look like the good Samaritan of the international community, the emergency looked destined to perpetuate an already absurd situation, in which Albanians with no particularly good reason to leave their homeland take up the offer of a free holiday in Italy in the secure knowledge that they will be welcomed with open arms.

While Albania's other European Union neighbour, Greece, has sent in the army to patrol its borders and try to ensure that the collapse of state authority in Albania does not lead to unfettered cross-border traffic in drugs and arms, Italy appears to have thrown caution to the winds. As a result, Greece has seen no significant increase in Albanian immigrants, while Italy is swamped.

Reception centres in Puglia, the Italian region facing Albania on the Adriatic, have been overwhelmed - they were prepared for no more than 3,500 refugees - and thousands of people have been bussed to cities in Tuscany, Abruzzi and the Marches. Charities have provided thousands of packets of nappies and biscuits and found foster-homes for families with young children.

While the charitable efforts have been laudable, they appear to be based on a misunderstanding of the situation in Albania and an even graver mis- understanding of the nature of the so-called refugees.

Italian television has repeatedly talked of food shortages, poverty and civil war in Albania, when in fact the shortages have been temporary and the civil war non-existent, since the armed gunmen rampaging around the country have been firing in the air, not at each other. Although the situation has calmed down in the past few days, the number of boat people arriving in Italy has actually increased.

As some Italian officials are beginning to acknowledge, the "refugees" are not impoverished victims of Albania's fraudulent pyramid schemes but families with at least $1,000 (pounds 630) in ready cash, a small fortune in Albania, which they have handed over to mafia gangs as the price for their passage to Italy. A significant minority have fled Albania because they fear criminal prosecution - either because they have broken out of jail during the recent chaos or because they profited from the rampant corruption of the discredited regime of the past five years.

Yesterday, the Italian army escorted nearly 300 "undesirables" back to Albania amid growing fears of an outbreak of delinquency in and around the refugee reception centres.

"Not only are the Albanian mafiosi arriving, but so are Albanian weapons being put at the disposal of local organised crime groups," warned Pier Luigi Vigna, Italy's top anti-mafia prosecutor and one of the few officials in the country who seems to understand what is really going on.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Alloysious Massaquoi, 'G' Hastings and Kayus Bankole of Young Fathers are the surprise winners of this year's Mercury Music Prize
musicThe surprise winners of the Mercury Prize – and a very brief acceptance speech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
News
video
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary Teachers Required in King's Lynn

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teachers needed in King's Ly...

Primary Teachers needed in Ely

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: Primary Teacher needed in the Ely ar...

Teaching Assistant to work with Autistic students

£60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Randstad Education Leicester ...

KS2 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Cambridge: KS2 Teacher needed in Peterborough a...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain