Italy: homeless refugees die in tragic accident, a tragic and inexcusable paradox
08 February 2013

Even though Italy received more than 50,000 asylum applications in the last three years, the state disposes of no more than 3,000 places in reception centres throughout the country. With the onset of the economic crisis, and the absence of training and employment opportunities, refugees have faced increasing difficulties in becoming independent.
The fact that these men lost their lives after being forced to flee war in their home country and risked their lives to make the journey to Italy is a tragic and inexcusable paradox.
Rome, 8 February 2013 – JRS Italy expresses profound sorrow at the death of two homeless Somali refugees who died in a fire in an underground passageway in late January. The men had lit a fire to warm themselves for the night, but the fire became uncontrollable and they burned to death.

"The circumstances in which the unspeakable tragedy occurred are for all a cry of despair in a country which has to deal with a seriously inefficient reception system for refugees", declared JRS Italy Director, Giovanni La Manna SJ.

This story is not just one tragedy of the death of two men but rather exemplifies the failure of the Italian state to ensure that the basic needs – food and shelter – of thousands of refugees who come to this wealthy Mediterranean nation in search of protection, but instead are forced into destitution – invisible to the majority of society.

In addition, refugees who, after failing to find real protection in Italy, wish to go to other European countries where they frequently have family and friends waiting to help them are sent back to Italy under the terms of the Dublin Regulation; this regulation assigns responsibility for refugees and migrants to the first European state in which they enter, placing the focus on border security, rather than humanitarian or protection concerns.

"The fact that these men lost their lives after being forced to flee war in their home country and risked their lives to make the journey to Italy is a tragic and inexcusable paradox", added Fr La Manna.

Even though Italy received more than 50,000 asylum applications in the last three years, the state disposes of no more than 3,000 places in reception centres throughout the country. With the onset of the economic crisis, and the absence of training and employment opportunities, refugees have faced increasing difficulties in becoming independent.

Once again – continued Fr La Manna – we urge the state, the competent authorities, to take responsibility for the lives of all those living in marginalised circumstances in Italy. This type of "tolerant inactivity" – which allows us to believe that every day inacceptable situations must be in some way passively accepted – needs to end.

In Italian cities – concluded La Manna – illegal settlements and squats are time bombs waiting to explode at the expense of those who have no alternative to live in safety.

Rethinking the reception system in major Italian cities must be put back on the political agenda and can no longer be postponed. It is a duty to those who died because they were forced to live in degrading conditions.




Press Contact Information
James Stapleton
international.communications@jrs.net
+39 06 69 868 468