ITV News sees how Italy is struggling to cope with migrant crisis

Martin Geissler

Former ITV News Correspondent

The camp is an old NATO base. Credit: ITV News

It’s not easy to see inside the migrant camp in Conetta. It’s an old NATO base.

Back in the Cold War era it was used to house surface to air missiles. These days it’s home to 1,500 migrants and refugees.

We asked for permission to film in the camp but the charity which runs it came back with a series of blocks and delays.

When we took a more direct route, turning up at the gate with a camera, yellow vested security guards ushered us away with a determined urgency.

But trying to keep a lid on conditions in a place like this is like trying to catch water in a sieve.

Many of the migrants own phones which can film video and before long my inbox was swelling with complaints about conditions in the camp and pictures to back them up.

Initially the camp was intended for 50 people, now 1,500 live there. Credit: ITV News

This is meant to be a holding camp, home for just a few weeks while more permanent accommodation can be found, but some of the people we spoke to said they’ve been here for more than a year.

They’re achieving nothing here, they say.

They can’t work, there’s little chance to learn the language and they have no clue when, or if, they’ll be given residency papers or a more permanent home.

They’re simply existing. Just.

Migrants are rescued from an overcrowded boat. Credit: Guardia Costiera

They live in bunk beds, crammed inches apart into huge, tented hangars.

There’s little comfort, no privacy and they say they’re fed just three bowls of rice per day.

Yet the charity which runs the camp is given £1 million of Italian taxpayers’ money each month to look after them.

The courts here are investigating whether unscrupulous people are cashing in on this crisis. It’s an unpalatable thought.

Migrants are rescued from the sea. Credit: ITV News

But what Italy finds equally galling is the fact that it’s been left to bear this burden alone.

There’s little appetite among fellow EU members to take in any of these new arrivals, so the debt-laden country shells out yet more money, because there’s little else it can do.

“We need common effort if the EU is to be preserved," the country’s deputy foreign minister tells me.

He genuinely believes that unless neighbouring countries pull their weight, the Union could fall apart.

Benedetto Della Vedova, Italian Deputy Foreign Minister Credit: ITV News

“That’s not a threat, it’s a reality”, he says.

People in his position choose their words carefully, and those are pretty stark. But that’s where Europe is just now.

This crisis is simply overwhelming, and ignoring it won’t make it go away.