Rome, June 14 (IANS/AKI) Rome's Mayor Virginia Raggi on Tuesday wrote to the government calling for a "moratorium" on migrants arriving in the capital and warning of "possibly devastating consequences" if attempts were made to take in any more.
"I find it impossible as well as risky to contemplate more reception facilities that have a big impact on...the city area," said Raggi's letter to Rome Prefect Paola Basilone.
"I request a moratorium on new arrivals given the large migrant presence and the continual influx of foreign citizens."
In the letter, Raggi stresses the need to consider the "high migrant pressure Rome is subjected to" and its "possibly devastating consequences in terms of social costs as well as for the protection of the beneficiaries themselves".
Castelnuovo di Porto, 25 km northwest of Rome houses one of Italy's 14 migrant and asylum-seeker reception centres, most of which are located in the south of the country.
One of Italy's five migrant identification and expulsion centres is in Rome's southern Ponte Galleria suburb.
As of January 1 last year, there were 365,000 foreign citizens resident in Rome - nearly 13 per cent of the poulation, 529,000 in the metropolitan area of Rome and 645,000 in the Lazio region, amounting to 11 percent of the population - three percentage points above the national average, according to the Roman Observatory on Migration.
Foreigners made up some 8.3 percent of Italy's population as of December 31, 2016, according to the latest demographic data released on Tuesday by national statistics office Istat.
Raggi in late May announced her administration would dismantle Roma Gypsy camps in the city, calling them a "feeding trough" for the mafia.
She vowed to offer help finding housing and work to the thousands of Roma people who live in makeshift homes on the outskirts of the capital.
Her demand drew criticism from politicians and charities.
"What reception facilities is Raggi talking about?" said Giovanna Maria Seddaiu, a left-wing councillor responsible for welcoming migrants in Rome's central-northern Flaminio, Parioli, Nomentano and Salario districts.
"The Italian Left (party) has repeatedly denounced the lack of government reception centres for migrants in the capital and a total lack of monitoring by the city council of people arriving at its stations as well as a very grave assault on every kind of informal accommodation," she said.
Roberto Viviani, president of NGO Baobab Experience, launched a strongly worded attack on Raggi, calling her reaction to migrant arrivals in the capital "hysterical".
"Mayor Raggi has confirmed that she is unable to manage the city, especially the migrant phenomenon," Viviani said.
The Red Cross in Rome's President Debora Didoti urged Raggi to tackle "a structural lack of facilities to assist vulnerable people who also include migrants".
"Wide-ranging measures are needed," said Didoti, inviting Raggi to meet with charities and find ways of helping migrants in the capital "that involve all institutional players".