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Italy is putting up Ukrainian refugees in former Mafia properties

The country is preparing to house hundreds of thousands of people fleeing the conflict

Ed Cunningham
Written by
Ed Cunningham

Italy confiscates so much stuff from the Mafia that it actually struggles to deal with it all. In 2021 alone, the country seized €1.9 billion (£1.6 billion, $2.09 billion) worth of assets from organised crime. That’s similar to the total annual GDP of Belize, just in seized stuff.

Motivated by the huge numbers of Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russian invasion, Italy has found an innovative way to put some of those confiscated assets to good use. The government plans to turn properties seized because of their Mafia associations into temporary housing centres for refugees. 

According to, more than 17,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Italy since the conflict began on February 24. And, being part of both the EU and the Schengen area, Italy can expect many more to arrive.

‘This is just the beginning. Hundreds of thousands of refugees are coming. We must rise to the occasion,’ said Italian politician (and former prime minister) Enrico Letta. And rising to the occasion Italy certainly is. The country’s interior ministry says that the process for converting the ex-Mafia houses is already well under way. 

It’s not the only country coming up with innovative ways to house Ukrainian refugees. The UK, for example, is said to be considering using the seized homes of Russian oligarchs as housing for Ukrainians fleeing the conflict, while Poland announced it would be using the confiscated property of Russian diplomats to help house refugees. 

Want to do your bit to help? Here are 18 ways you can support the people of Ukraine right now.

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