Living Conditions Spark Protest By Asylum Seekers

As tensions rose after journalists were turned away from a Red Cross refugee centre on the outskirts of Milan, about 100 asylum seekers took to the streets to protest over poor living conditions and bureaucratic delay.

Although The Local reports yesterday morning’s street protest was “impromptu” other sources disagree. Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera suggests the hour-long protest was planned, at least in part, by a smaller group of asylum seekers.

The traffic on Viale Fulvio Testi in all directions came to a standstill as the asylum seekers protested for over an hour before returning to the refugee centre by an airfield in Bresso, northern Milan.

The newspaper reports makeshift signs consisting of handwritten messages on cardboard declaring “We’re Tired – We Want Our Documents” seemed spontaneous at first glance, but in fact the move had been planned by a smaller group of asylum seekers who then roped in their fellow migrants.

As well as protesting at the uncertainty and delay in being processed leaving them in “legal limbo”, the asylum seekers objected to their living conditions. Sleeping on bunks in tents of up to eight men, where the only luxury is a kettle of tea served in glasses and power for charging mobile telephones, boredom is another factor.

One Afghan migrant from Kabul told Corriere of his experience. Nassir cannot remember how many borders he crossed to reach Italy via Iran, Turkey and the Balkans, saying: “I made it on foot – I swear – and for what? To be here, five months without answers, in these conditions. I’m 19, but I’m getting old in here.”

Nassir’s fellow Afghans join Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and especially Africans (from Mali, Senegal and Guinea, amongst others) in the ranks of asylum seekers at the camp. There are only men, mostly in their twenties with a few older.

The protest ended when a seven man delegation representing the various nationalities, met with the Red Cross and police.

Another migrant, this time from Guinea, explained his position to Corriere:

“I’ve been here almost a year, you know? First a terrible cold, then in summer you can’t breathe. The food is poor, cold meals, and we cannot prepare anything. “

He concluded, agreeing with Nassir the Afghan, that he is focused on getting “the document” so he can begin to make a living.

As The Local reports, the protest came after a weekend in which Italy’s coastguard picked up another 4,700 migrants, lifting to more than 108,000 the number of asylum seekers and other migrants that have arrived in Italy this year.

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