Fears for African refugees as coronavirus hits crowded Rome squat | News

Rome, Italy – Volunteers unload stuffed-full plastic luggage from the again of a automotive whereas two girls from the Horn of Africa wait for his or her groceries behind the fence of “Selam Palace”, house to as many as 500 asylum seekers and refugees from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan.

They’ve been residing behind closed doorways since April 6, after two coronavirus circumstances had been discovered inside their nine-storey squat. The military has closed the street to the primary entrance, fenced off the entire space, and is patrolling all methods in or out.


“We simply noticed the police coming. No person notified us of something,” 40-year-old Eritrean refugee Bereket informed Al Jazeera.

Selam Palace is the most important constructing in Rome to develop into a squat for refugees and migrants, who wrestle to afford the Italian capital’s rental prices. Consultants estimate there are one other 110 occupied buildings within the Everlasting Metropolis.

The president of the native municipality, Monica Lozzi, confirmed to Al Jazeera that each one residents had been examined for coronavirus, and 50 had been discovered to have contracted it.

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“They’re principally asymptomatic and have already been transferred to different amenities,” she mentioned.

Two girls with their kids have been admitted to an area paediatric hospital, however support organisations are livid about the best way authorities have dealt with the disaster.

“I have been repeating for years that folks can’t dwell in these situations. It was crystal clear that this was going to occur,” Donatella D’Angelo, a household physician and president of the charity Residents of the World, informed Al Jazeera.

Residents of the World have been offering a weekly well being and social counselling service to the refugees, who first occupied the constructing in 2006.

‘Palace of disgrace’

The glass-covered Selam Palace was as soon as an workplace constructing belonging to the College of Tor Vergata on the southern outskirts of Rome, surrounded by parking heaps and workplace blocks.

Many occupants spend their days within the courtyard, for the reason that facility can’t deal with the a whole bunch of individuals in it.

Rome: Refugee squat palace [Valerio Muscella]

Volunteers ship groceries to the refugees squatting contained in the Selam Palace [Valerio Muscella/Al Jazeera]

“Overcrowding, an absence of air flow and of any means to warmth and funky these areas render the setting unhealthy – and an ideal ally within the transmission of COVID-19 [the disease caused by the virus],” Dr D’Angelo mentioned.

In early 2012, Nils Muiznieks, the then-commissioner for human rights for the Council of Europe, paid a go to right here and met its residents. “Locations equivalent to Selam Palace mustn’t exist,” he wrote afterwards.

There’s one bathroom for each 19 folks, and a bathe for each 33 folks, Residents of the World reported in 2018. Residents have divided the workplace areas with plasterboard to assemble extra rooms, however 5 – 6 nonetheless share every bed room.

Initially of March, the help organisation wrote to native well being authorities, the president of the municipality and the regional governor. However its warnings remained unheeded till residents discovered in regards to the first an infection.

“And once they lastly listened to me, they despatched the military,” mentioned Dr D’Angelo. “That is outrageous.”

The help organisation solid doubts over the measures to restrict the an infection right here.

“Testing with swabs began final week, however then they stopped for Easter,” notes social employee Guendalina Curi. “Are we positive that these deemed as damaging haven’t been contaminated within the meantime?”

Residents are nervous too, since authorities didn’t evacuate the family of a few of those that examined constructive, and social distancing right here is virtually inconceivable.

‘Failure of the system’

In Italy, the coronavirus pandemic has additional uncovered the state of emergency refugees and migrants dwell in day-after-day.

“Selam Palace represents the blatant failure of our reception system, as a result of folks settle for to dwell in these situations simply to have a roof over their head,” mentioned Dr D’Angelo.

Regardless of some profitable examples of residents travelling to different European nations and starting a brand new life there, Dr D’Angelo says no less than half of the residents have been caught right here since 2006. Most barely converse Italian.

Bereket works as a porter in a supply firm and is a union activist. However discovering lodging has proved laborious for him, too.

“You haven’t any everlasting contract, and you’re a foreigner and Black; it is not straightforward to hire a room,” he mentioned.

Earlier than transferring to Selam Palace, he lived in an occupied workplace block in Through Curtatone, with one other 800 Eritrean and Ethiopian refugees.

Legislation enforcement emptied the constructing in August 2017. The photographs of the Italian police utilizing water cannons to disperse the following protest sparked worldwide indignation.

Trying to the long run, it’s discrimination that scares Bereket greater than coronavirus.

“If they are saying that this can be a ‘pink zone’,” he says, “how would folks react after we lastly get out to go to the grocery store?”

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