Reportage. The Lazio Region has made 950 places available in seven ‘Covid hotels’ for the period of medical isolation. The operation is managed by a pool of institutional and volunteer groups.

Rome welcomes Afghans with quarantine lodging and solidarity

Photo by Giansandro Merli

Of the 4,890 Afghans who arrived in Italy with the evacuations from Kabul, about a fifth are spending the quarantine period in the capital. The operation is coordinated by the Civil Protection and a pool of institutions and NGOs.

The Lazio Region has guaranteed 950 places in seven “Covid hotels,” Save The Children is providing the cultural mediators, the local health authorities are offering medical assistance and the volunteers of the Third Sector Forum of Lazio are providing them necessities. “They left suddenly, without taking anything with them. We mainly brought clothes,” said Francesco Pellas from the Forum.

Only 10 people among the refugees tested positive for the coronavirus, while 200 have already received the vaccine.

“Eight of us came: me, my wife, my mother, three sisters and three children,” Farid tells us, in Italian. He was a cook at the Herat military base. Ten days ago, he managed to get on a flight from Kabul. He is being hosted with his relatives in a hotel in the Rebibbia area. Their quarantine period is over and they will be transferred any day now. “We don’t know where to,” he says. Between Tuesday and Wednesday, 137 people were moved as their isolation period ended.

“I am happy to be here. The Italians are nice. We were lucky,” says Shokria, one of the sisters. She smiles, wrapped in her veil, like the other women who are sporting colorful fabrics. She is 18 years old and speaks perfect English. “I want to learn Italian and then go to university. My dream is to study medicine, to be a gynecologist,” she says. Part of her family, her father and three brothers, are still stranded in the Afghan capital. “After the explosion at the airport, it was chaos and they couldn’t get in,” Fahrid says.

At Hotel Alba, there are about 100 Afghans. “They’re very well-behaved people. They will soon be transferred, also because high season is starting for us here,” says Michele De Lisi, who manages the hotel.

Villa Monte Mario is a youth hostel run by the Carmelite nuns, where they recently had to stop the solidarity drive started by the local authorities after just a few hours, because there were simply too many donations.

“There are 52 people here, including an unaccompanied minor and a woman nine months pregnant. We have heard very harrowing stories, which I’d rather not recount,” says Carmine Tabarro, the volunteer coordinator. “The only thing we regret is that they will have to leave, which will lead to yet another separation after a good relationship has been built with us and also with the local authorities. The nuns are willing to continue hosting them, but we were told that isn’t possible,” he adds.

After the quarantine period, the Afghans will enter the reception pathways for asylum seekers and refugees, according to the indications of the Ministry of Interior. The goal is to include as many as possible in SAI projects (Reception and Integration System, the former SPRAR), but the decrees to make more places available for them are waiting for signatures and are still looking for the funding sources. Meanwhile, many will go into the CAS (Extraordinary Reception Centers) system, or in housing identified by local authorities throughout the country.

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