Migrant centre closed in Rome

Baobab migrant centre shut down by Rome authorities.

The well-known migrant Centro Baobab on Via Cupa, near Rome's Tiburtina station, has been forced to close. Despite numerous petitions and appeals over the past two weeks, police closed the volunteer-run centre on 6 December. Since May it has hosted over 35,000 migrants, most of them in transit through Rome.

Designed to house around 200 people, the Centro Baobab offered daily meals to up to 700, and was regularly hailed as a model of peaceful coexistence between Christian and Muslim immigrants from the Middle East and Africa.

The city said that the centre had to be closed because it was under court order to be handed back to its private owner. However it has promised that all its former occupants would be rehoused in migrant facilities elsewhere in the capital.

Organisers of the centre say the city has committed to identifying a suitable new site near one of Rome's two main train stations (Termini or Tiburtina) whose location will be presented to volunteers on 15 December.

A police raid on Baobab in late-November, which resulted in the detention of 23 migrants without valid documents, was part of tough new anti-terrorism measures announced by Rome police chief Nicolò D’Angelo in the wake of the recent Paris attacks, and ahead of the Vatican’s Holy Jubilee of Mercy.

The centre won the support of neighbouring Italians, the international schools in Rome and Pope Francis who donated pasta, milk and biscuits in August.