They are the last of the last: those who have no home, or who are trapped in the migrant collection centers, or those who might at any moment arrive in Italy via the Balkan route and have nowhere to go.
For the last few months, in Trieste, a small group of volunteers from the Linea d’Ombra NGO—including doctors from the Don Kisciotte Association—has been present in one of the squares in the town center, offering first aid and treating the wounds—especially the wounded feet—of these young people who often arrive after having walked for countless miles, after having managed to escape the beatings in Serbia, Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, after having been kicked and robbed.
They arrive exhausted, cold and full of fear. On the benches in the park in front of the train station, they can find a hot drink, a sandwich, and hopefully a jacket and a pair of shoes—if any are available.
They can find someone who will clean their sores and tend to their wounds—which might be gunshot wounds, bite marks, whip marks—so they don’t get infected, if that hasn’t happened already.
The Lega finds the fact that they are receiving assistance intolerable. This is why a couple of days ago, the deputy mayor of Trieste, the Lega’s infamous Paolo Polidori, who is know for an episode in which he bragged about throwing the few possessions of a homeless person in a dumpster, outraging half of Italy, said: “Even with the shortage of masks for workers who are working in absurd conditions, there are some who think it is a priority to distribute them in the public squares! I have demanded that no crowds be tolerated, the migrants don’t have more rights than us, as some people believe; I am reminding them that they too must stay at home!”
The city councilor obviously has a home to stay in, that’s for sure. Unlike these young people, and unlike the local homeless, about whom, even though they’re native Italians, he still apparently couldn’t care less. Everybody stay home, there’s the coronavirus, there’s a decree to obey. It doesn’t matter that now, even more than before, a bed or a shelter, even a temporary one, is something very difficult to find: the requirement to respect safety distances has reduced the number of beds in the reception facilities, and all daytime spaces have been closed.
Indeed, we must respect the Prime Minister’s decree from March 9—but isn’t leaving people without shelter also an attack on public health?
Then, Polidori also mounted a shockingly violent attack against Gianfranco Schiavone, president of the Italian Solidarity Consortium and vice-president of the Association of Legal Studies on Immigration, on the matter of Schiavone’s public calls to Civil Protection to stop forgetting about the migrants.
The Trieste councilor called him “a character who is a friend to migrants and who has received a lot of money on their account” and described his calls as “nauseating statements … incoherent ramblings and delusions from an individual who has revealed himself in the most ignoble role possible, as an enemy of the citizens and of our society, and towards whom we must show the most profound contempt!”
Some might take such a statement as no less than an incitement to lynching.
Similarly, regional councilor Pierpaolo Roberti (from the Lega, just like Polidori) expressed his outrage upon learning that that there are apparently migrants who “do not comply with the new regulations,” and said that he had asked the government “for more drastic measures, ranging from the revocation of any residence permit to sending them to pre-removal detention centers immediately.”
The President of the Region, Massimiliano Fedriga, was in agreement: “Fines are not enough, different punitive measures are needed.” It is clear that according to these Lega politicians, Italians and foreigners should be punished in different ways, which sounds frivolous as a juridical argument, not to mention morally abhorrent. Yes, it’s true that we all have to stay at home, and checks by the authorities are welcome. But are we sure that everyone is informed about this and is able to find a place to stay? Who are the ones approaching the migrants who stop in the squares in search of help? None other than the police or the Carabinieri, of course, as if this was nothing more than a matter of possessing the right documents or being fined. Should all of them be sent off to the pre-deportation camps without further ado, as Roberti would like? Isn’t that much like packing them off to a concentration camp?
In the meantime, the number of denunciations for violations of the anti-coronavirus measures is growing: in just a few days, about twenty complaints were filed against migrants found in the streets or on park benches. They must stay at home, and it makes no difference if they have no home to stay in at all. What about the local prefects’ powers to requisition private property? What about the expropriation procedures that the public administration could decide to make use of in emergency situations?
The Linea d’Ombra Volunteer Organization, which is present day after day in the squares with bandages, ointments and oranges, is stressing that it has full authorization to carry out its interventions, which always take place in compliance with the regulations in force, including the extraordinary ones of nowadays.
“In the institutions as well, those people who are not blinded by power interests realize that you cannot leave dozens and dozens of people on the streets, often in precarious physical condition, without food, without anything. There is no doubt that in this way, we are doing something that is the responsibility of the institutions: that is probably why we were given permission to do it. It is not our job to fill the gaps in the institutions. Our job is to create fragments of a supportive society. And today, migrants and refugees are the main partners for accomplishing this, at least here, on the eastern border.” Meanwhile, in accordance with the same securitarian line, the Prefect of Trieste has announced that 100 soldiers will be assigned to the province of Giulia “for control of every inch of the borders.”