Italy prepares to receive Ukrainian refugees as first coaches arrive in north

Italy is preparing to receive an influx of refugees from the Russia-Ukraine war, as Ukrainians fleeing the invasion have started arriving in the north of the country.

On Sunday, a coach filled with approximately 50 people, most of them women and children, arrived in the northeastern city of Trieste, reports the Ansa news agency.

Another bus containing around 40 people, one of them a nine-month-old baby, reportedly arrived in Piacenza in Emilia Romagna after travelling through the night.

Vittorio Zappalorto, the prefect of Venice, said several hundred more have already arrived in the Veneto region. Between 300 and 440 were expected to arrive in northwestern Genoa shortly, the news agency AGI reported.

Italy hosts the largest Ukrainian community in Europe, with media outlets estimating the country’s Ukrainian population to number somewhere between 230,000 and 248,000 people.

As the first trickle of evacuees arrived over the weekend, individual Italian cities had already begun preparing their initial crisis response, assisted by members of the Ukrainian diaspora.

Mayors from towns and cities throughout the country voiced their willingness to open their doors to Ukrainians displaced by the war, with Bologna having reportedly identified six structures that can be used to provide emergency accommodation.

Trieste has in the first instance made space to accommodate approximately 1,000 people, according to Gianfranco Schiavone, president of the non-profit Italian Solidarity Consortium-Refugee Agency (ICS).

Schiavone called on Italy to put in place an operational programme to receive the large numbers of Ukrainians expected to seek asylum in Italy.

More than 500,000 people have fled the country so far, according to the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees – a figure which could rise as high as four million if the conflict intensifies.

The EU’s Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson told reporters in Brussels on Sunday that the EU should prepare to receive millions of refugees.

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“I am proud of how the European citizens at the borders are showing concrete solidarity with Ukrainians fleeing this terrible, aggressive war,” she reportedly said.

Speaking at European Interior Affairs Council in Brussels on Sunday, Italy’s Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese said Italy was ready to play its part in accommodating refugees.

“For me, solidarity has always been a staple of our European agenda, and now even more so, we will offer maximum solidarity to a people who are suffering,” Lamorgese reportedly said, adding that Italy was prepared to accept additional refugees via EU redistribution quotas.

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