Mamadou (*name changed) is 15 years old and comes from Guinea and is in the third year at a middle school in Rome's Alessandrino area. ''I was supposed to take the exam for the leaving certificate of the school, but I can't study. I only sleep two and a half hours per night,'' he says. Mamadou has been living on the streets for the past week, after the police evicted the squat he had been living in.
"We are sleeping outside because we are scared of the police,'' he said in meeting on Via di Vannina, in the eastern outskirts of Rome. Mamadou lives here with his parents and two younger brothers, aged 10 and 13. Associations working with migrants say that at least 500 had been living in the same occupied building. ''There is also a mother with two small children, aged 1 and 5,'' Mamadou said. ''They told us to go away because someone had bought the building. They came in the morning and kicked us out. They beat people.''
"Beaten like animals"
After the first eviction last week, many migrants - some asylum seekers along with ones with permits of stay - slept on the streets while others took shelter in a nearby abandoned building. ''The police told us that on Monday we would be able to go back into the building where we had been staying to get our belongings. We were waiting for them but when they arrived early in the morning, they came in and beat us,'' a woman said. On June 12, the police went back to Via di Vannina and evicted the second occupied building.
Many youths say that activists and volunteers from associations offering legal assistance - such as Intersos, Baobab Experience and Medici per i Diritti Umani - who arrived at the scene suffered violence. ''They beat me with a stick, as if I were an animal,'' one youth with his arm bandaged said. Another showed an injury to his eyebrow and a bruise on his ribs. ''I was sleeping. They came and hit me. This is not ok,'' he said. Another said that he had been ''pushed down from the first floor by a policeman'', and he now has problem moving.
"We cannot live like this"
Mamadou has been living in Via di Vannina for six months because he has nowhere else to go. ''We do not have the money for a room, otherwise we wouldn't be here,'' he said. ''My father hurt his hand and cannot work.'' Over the past few months ''no one has come to offer us another place. This is not a nice life. We cannot live this way,'' he said. In visiting the area, the Italian branch of UNICEF called the situation ''unacceptable'' and urged the Rome administration to intervene to solve ''the emergency'' as soon as possible.