MEDU workers during the clearing on Tuesday in Florence | Photo: MEDU
MEDU workers during the clearing on Tuesday in Florence | Photo: MEDU

A group of Somalis was evicted from an occupied building in Florence this week. City officials said the migrants refused an offer of temporary housing, but aid workers say some were initially not given accommodation, leaving 50 people temporarily homeless.

Law enforcement officers cleared out a building occupied by members of Florence's Somali community on Tuesday following a preventive seizure decree.

The building, which is owned by Unipol-Sai -- an Italian financial services company, had already been occupied twice before, in 2013 and 2017.

The organization Doctors for Human Rights (MEDU), which was on site at the time, said such evictions "never lead to a solution, but simply shift the problem."

Many of the migrants were initially left without housing -- though it is disputed whether this was because they refused the city's offer to accommodate them or because the city initially did not provide housing for some of the residents.

Up to 15 migrants taken to shelter

According to MEDU, only 10 vulnerable people from the building were taken to temporary reception facilities. The organization said that 50 other people -- including six women -- were left "on the street."

The City of Florence counted fewer people present during the eviction and said that many migrants at first refused the offer to move into temporary housing.

According to authorities, about 50 people were in the building on Tuesday. A total of 15 people were reportedly transferred to a facility called Albergo Populare. The other 35 people reportedly refused the offer to move temporarily to Albergo Populare.

The City of Florence said they also offered each person 15 food coupons worth €10 each.

City authorities said the occupants demanded that the city take in 70 people, meaning they would have had to offer accommodation to other people who were not in the occupied building at the time law enforcement came to count the occupants.

MEDU said 36 people -- who reportedly lived in the occupied building -- were not present when authorities arrived because they were at work, which meant that they were not offered temporary housing.

50 migrants slept rough on Tuesday night

Between Tuesday and Wednesday, about 50 people spent the night sleeping in tents on a bridge connecting Piazza Puccini and Via Baracca -- causing the bridge to be closed to traffic.

The City of Florence said mediation by social services continued on Wednesday to find accommodation for those who remained on the street. On Wednesday afternoon, the occupants accepted housing offered by municipal authorities.

The police department said charges will be filed against about 10 activists from the collective "Iniziativa Antagonista Metropolitana," who they claim stoked the occupants' protest and brought tents. They will reportedly be charged with interruption of a public service, instigation to commit a crime and insulting a public official.


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