Italy: Capri divided over migrant plan

Glamorous holiday isle is preparing to welcome 45 migrants but some business owners are not happy

Italy: Capri divided over migrant plan
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One business owner said Capri had a ‘reputation to maintain’.
Photograph: Melvyn Longhurst/Alamy

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This article titled “Italy: Capri divided over migrant plan” was written by Angela Giuffrida, for The Guardian on Monday 30th January 2017 06.00 UTC

From Jackie Kennedy and Greta Garbo to Sophia Loren and Richard Gere, the glamorous Italian island of Capri has a long history of drawing the rich and famous to its glistening shores.

But the prospect of 45 migrants mingling with this summer’s VIP guests has cast a shadow over the affluent island and prompted fierce online debate.

In a move that has divided its population of around 13,000, authorities in Naples, which governs the archipelago off the Campania coastline, have asked leaders in Capri to prepare to house the group as part of the wider government initiative to share the burden of arrival migrants across the country.

But business owners and hotels have been resisting the proposal. “This isn’t good for the image of the island,” said one man, who asked not to be named.

“It’s not that Capri isn’t welcoming to foreigners, there are many living and working here, but it has a reputation to maintain.”

On social media, users wrote that it is “the state [who] should be assisting those displaced by earthquakes” and claimed migrants “risk bringing disease, increasing crime and damaging the island’s reputation”.

The proposal foresees 45 migrants living between the island’s two main towns, Capri, the affluent town beloved by the world’s celebrities, and the more humble Anacapri, located on the opposite coast.

Mayors of both towns support the plan, with Francesco Cerrotta, the mayor of Anacapri, suggesting an integration programme that could see migrants given Italian lessons, cooking classes and help with finding work.

Rather than putting pressure on hoteliers, he said they could easily be housed in publicly owned property.

“We’ve been asked to take 22 people,” he said. “I am absolutely not afraid, it’s our duty to help.

“Some residents are worried – they see all the negative images on TV and only hear about the problems. But on the contrary to what people are saying about the island’s reputation, I think that by doing this, we can enhance it.”

Meanwhile, Roberto Bozzaotre, the vice-mayor of the town of Capri, took to Facebook to urge residents to be welcoming, saying: “Refugees are nothing more than people who had to flee their country because they were discriminated against and persecuted.”

But Sergio Gargiulo, president of the Capri unit of Federalberghi, the hotel association, argued that there were “too few beds” on the island and that it would be too pricey for migrants to survive.

The Italian government gives authorities €35 (£29) a day for each migrant to cover basic living costs.

“This isn’t enough for them to live here,” Gargiulo said. “It costs €40 just to leave the island. We’re not saying that these people don’t have rights, they do, but Capri is not the most suitable choice. They will be cut off here.”

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