Italian government officials have threatened to use force to break up a barricade erected by the residents of a wealthy Rome suburb in a bid to keep African migrants out of their neighbourhood. Police have already been ordered to move into the area.
As Italy struggles to house the migrants flocking into the country from across the Mediterranean Sea, tempers are flaring. In the suburb of Casale San Nicola, 100 migrants were due to be housed by the government in a disused school, but the resident of the leafy borough took exception, barricading the road to the school with the help of local right wing group CasaPound, The Times has reported.
“They say there will be no security risk,” one demonstrator said, “but how can they be sure? Whoever arrives won’t be under arrest, they can leave the school. Who can assure us that nothing will happen? It’s not racism, just good sense.”
As locals refused to back down, Franco Gabrielli, the prefect of Rome ordered police to move into the area and break up the barricade.
The incident is just one of many across Italy as the government seeks to house the migrants, sometimes in very rural areas. Casale San Nicola had become the front-line in a protest against “government arrogance,” the right wing party Fratelli D’Italia said in a statement.
French officials at the border between Italy and France have been preventing migrants from crossing the border, citing EU rules which stipulate that migrants heading to the EU must register for asylum in the first EU member state they reach, further swelling the numbers of migrants seeking shelter in Italy.
However, although 50,000 migrants landed in Italy in the first quarter of 2015, only 15,000 registered for asylum in that country.
Closer to Rome, as many as 500 migrants have been setting up camp in a centre near Tiburtina train station, with some spilling out onto the pavements surrounding the area.
The Red Cross has now set up a tent behind the station to deal with the overspill, handing out slices of pizza to Christian migrants while Muslim migrants fasted for Ramadan and sheltered from the hot sun. “We’ve got 75 people here now, but it changes all the time as they transit through,” said one Red Cross worker.
A Sudanese migrant who made the crossing to Italy from Egypt, rather than Libya, told reporters that he was on his way to Britain. An archaeology graduate from the University of Khartoum, he had been inspired to aim to reach the UK after working as a student alongside visiting British archaeologists.
“I would like to do my masters in England,” he said. “My father sold his car to pay for my trip and I left because there is no future, no jobs in Sudan. You cannot achieve your dreams there.”