Italy: The mayor of an island that was once a symbol for refugee compassion has warned that it’s descending into anarchy

– Lampedusa migrants condemned by Mayor Salvatore Martello:

The mayor of the Italian island of Lampedusa, destination for many migrants setting off from Tunisia, complained on Sunday that his town was on the verge of societal collapse.

Groups of migrants were flouting laws, harassing women and getting drunk, Mayor Salvatore Martello said in an open letter to Italian news agency ANSA  and in comments to Italian news outlets.

“Threats, harassments, thefts, Lampedusa is about to collapse,” Martello wrote, calling for the closure of the “useless” migrant center on the island. “Police are powerless,” he wrote.

“The bars are full of Tunisians who are drunk and harass women. I receive tens of messages from frightened tourists, hoteliers, traders and restaurateurs who suffer daily.”

Residents outnumbered

After a decade out of power, Martello was re-elected recently as mayor of Italy’s southernmost island, which over the past 20 years has become a primary entry point for migrants to Europe. At times its temporary migrant population has outnumbered the island’s 6,000 permanent residents.

Read more: Lampedusa suffers under weight of Europe’s refugee crisis

Lampedusa has long held the image of having open arms for migrants. Its residents were nominated for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in rescuing hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants, many from Eritrea, Syria and Libya, and treating them with dignity and compassion.

“The inhabitants have proved capable of living in peaceful co-existence with the new-comers, while showing a unique ability to express empathy and solidarity,” Oslo Professor Elisabeth Eide wrote in her nomination letter.

Previous Mayor Giusi Nicolini in April 2017 was awarded the Unesco peace prize for “her humanity, and her constant efforts in managing the refugee crisis.”

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