A contemporary art museum in northern Italy has turned off its free wifi because the service was attracting too many migrants, its director said Wednesday.
The Museion in Bolzano/Bozen, the provincial capital of the German-speaking region of South Tyrol, has faced criticism from intellectuals and left-wing politicians, while right-wingers have applauded its move.
"I stand by this decision, which I find legitimate," Museion Director Letizia Ragaglia told dpa.
Migrants, who rely on social networks to get in touch with friends and family, started going to the museum in April and were initially welcomed, but "the situation got a bit out of hand" in December, with a series of "unpleasant situations," Ragaglia said.
Mistaking the museum for a shelter, people started sleeping on the premises and using its toilets for their personal hygiene, the director said.
Ragaglia asked authorities to provide an alternative centre for migrants, or increase police presence at the site, but after such requests went unheeded, she said she was forced to take other actions.
She stressed that wifi services were suspended "temporarily" from December 23, to limit the chance that the reduced number of staff working during the holiday period will have to deal with more unpleasant situations.
From January 7 onwards, free wifi will be restricted to a specific area of the museum, or a password may be introduced, but "we will give it to anyone who asks, obviously," Ragaglia said.
Bolzano/Bozen is a stopping point for migrants seeking to travel on to Austria and Germany via train.
The local leader of the Italian Left party, Guido Margheri, said the solution was extending free wifi throughout the city. "Instead of solving problems adequately [...] we prefer to erect real and virtual walls against people," he said.
Filippo Maturi, a member of the far-right Northern League, wrote on Facebook that Museion's actions were long overdue. "Finally, after we protested for months and tried several avenues, something is being done," he said.