The living conditions that African migrants thrive in the northern Italian City of Turin is just unbearable. More than 1,000 migrants are crowded in rooms that were built to house 300 competitors at the 2006 Winter Olympics.
Unfortunately, you’ll never hear political parties addressing the concerns of hundreds of thousands of migrants struggling to build a life in Italy. However, this issue remains one of the hottest ahead of elections.
On the contrary, the parties have promised to impose tough measures on the more than 600,000 migrants who’ve made their way to Italy. The measures to be imposed include halting immigration altogether or mass deportations.
The poor Italians who are struggling to find jobs and housing in an anemic economy make it even unfavorable to offer support to migrants.
“This place is the epitome of Italy’s failure to integrate,” said Nicolo’ Vasile, a 31-year-old engineer from Sicily who spends an average of 40 hours a week helping residents, including 40 families and 50 children, with maintenance, paperwork, and other tasks.
“There is no institutional path to integration. It simply doesn’t exist, unlike elsewhere in Europe,” said Vasile, one of 20 local volunteers, from students to pensioners to professors, who help those stuck in the Turin complex.
Efforts were made by the ruling center-left Democratic Party (PD) last year by striking deals with the Tripoli government and coast guard aimed at preventing migrants from boarding boats for Europe.
This has reduced the number of migrants arriving in Italy by sea by a third last year to 119,000.
An SWG poll published last week shows that thirty percent of the electorate would vote for a party that pledges to put “Italians first”, while 25 percent would back a bloc promising to “stop immigrants”.
On the other hand, the opposition center-right bloc is taking the hardest line against migrants. The coalition, which includes Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (Go Italy!) and the anti-immigrant Northern League, is leading in the opinion polls though no single bloc appears yet to have enough votes to govern alone.
According to the Former Prime Minister Berlusconi, irregular migrants are driving up crime and should be deported, even though official data shows crime rates fell last year. The far-right Northern League has promised mass deportations.
“There are half a million irregular migrants in Italy. All of them need to be sent home,” League leader Matteo Salvini told La Repubblica newspaper on Tuesday.
Irregular migrants would be deported by the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, which is polling as the single biggest party at just under 30 percent.
To draw a contrast, Italy’s migrant budget was 4.3 billion euros ($5.3 billion) last year while Germany’s federal government spent 13.6 billion euros to accommodate and process asylum seekers.
In Italy, almost 200,000 migrants now live in shelters, but they must leave when their asylum request is granted, which usually takes no more than 18 months, with no further housing or unemployment benefits provided. Almost 120,000 people have received some form of asylum in Italy in the past four years.
The law requires that they seek asylum and work in the European Union country where they first set foot. As a result, the migrants are trapped in Italy, forcing many to forage to survive.
Samuel Pieta from Cameroon lives on the top floor of one block. He is 33, has been in Italy since 2011 but has never worked in the country. His room is decorated with soccer balls, books, broken fax machines and a refrigerator he uses as a wardrobe, all objects he found in local trash bins.