Landing in Sicily

Migrants walk as they disembark from navy ship in Sicilian harbor of Augusta.

At least 124,000 migrants entered Italy in the first eight months of this year, more than twice the 60,000 who arrived in all of 2013. The vast majority landed first in Sicily. Seeing to the new arrivals’ immediate needs in Sicily’s multiple port cities is now a joint effort between church and civil society. In January, the Palermo branch of Caritas signed a convention with city authorities to open four centers for migrants, known as extraordinary welcome centers, which currently house 160 people. When groups of migrants suddenly arrive, Caritas volunteers greet their boats with food, clothes and medical help. In an emergency, Palermo churches remove pews and install cots, provided by the city, for stays of as long as a week. In Catania, the Caritas Help Center stayed open the whole summer to provide food, shelter and clothing to some 400 migrants and other homeless people. “The poor don’t go away on vacation,” the Rev. Piero Galvano, director of Caritas in Catania, told BlogSicilia, an online publication, in July. “Migrants deserve being treated with dignity and respect. Tending to them is a sign of civilization.”

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