Italy’s Immigration Crisis Reaches Boiling Point

A volunteer talks to a group of migrants as police officers stand in front of the door of a train bound for Munich at the Bolzano railway station
REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

The immigration crisis affecting Italy reached boiling-point yesterday. A build-up of asylum-seekers at major train stations in both Rome and Milan led to clashes with police and calls from angry politicians demanding EU assistance.

AFP reports that over the course of the week hundreds of migrants attempting to reach northern Europe gathered in Milan Central and Rome’s Tiburtina train stations. The Schengen Agreement normally means migrants landing in Italy freely travel through neighbouring southern and central European countries as they attempt to reach Britain, Germany and Scandinavia.

However, migrants’ progress is currently blocked because of the temporary suspension of Schengen and reintroduction of border controls brought about by Monday’s G7 summit in Germany. This, allied with increased public transportation spot checks, means the migrants remained in the train stations which were “left looking like refugee camps.”

Police forcibly cleared a makeshift camp in Rome on Thursday after local businesses complained that security and sanitation issues mean the surrounding district was becoming a no-go area. By Friday, however, large numbers of the mainly African migrants were already attempting to reassemble nearby.

Elsewhere, more than 100 migrants, mostly women and children, were removed from Milan Central station overnight and housed in reception centres. Concerned by the prevalence of scabies, local authorities offered migrants health checks.

Giorgio Ciconali, a doctor working at the station, told AFP: “There is a lot of scabies and it is being spread by them sleeping rough together, but there is nothing to worry about for people passing through the station.”

Million is a 28 year old Eritrean migrant stranded in Milan, part of a group sleeping rough in the Porta Venezia district. He arrived in the country by boat and initially reached Switzerland where he was detained and flown back to Italy.  Reluctant to return to Eritrea for fear of being jailed, he told AFP:

“I can’t totally criticise the Italians because they have saved most of our lives [at sea]. But now we are here, they do nothing for us. We are reduced to sleeping under bushes, eating biscuits and water and living like tramps. It’s no kind of life, but if you have been fingerprinted you can’t go anywhere.”

Northern League leader Matteo Salvini blames the situation on Prime Minister Matteo Renzi‘s failure to persuade other EU member states to take a share of the incoming migrants.  He said:

“If the government had any balls they would go to Brussels and tell the EU they are not getting another cent from Italy until they recognise we are part of Europe.”


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