In the northwestern Italian town of Asti, Pakistani asylum seekers have been staging a protest for over a month. Their demand: To be granted refugee status.
For the past 40 days, a group of Pakistani nationals have been conducting a sit-in with blankets and sleeping bags outside the police headquarters of the Italian town of Asti, located in the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy, demanding that they be granted political refugee status.
The group consists of about 30 people who take turns protesting, according to a recent report by local news site La Voce di Asti.
Help for migrants from local organizations
Multiple local associations recently launched initiatives to support the migrants.
The local branch of Catholic charity Caritas said that their volunteers started providing "hot tea, coffee, cookies, sandwiches and the address of the Samaritan day center where they can take advantage of showers, baths and receive clothes and shoes [...] every morning" in a Facebook post on Friday (September 30).
On Monday, the anti-discrimination collective La Miccia met with participants alongside journalists.
"We want to understand," the association said, "whether, beyond aid, it is legal to leave these people in these conditions. Without recognition they cannot get access to healthcare services or sleeping facilities that do not allow access for the undocumented."
They also posted about the protest on their Facebook account and blog, saying that "we denounce this intolerable situation [the migrants face] for which the ...city authorities are responsible."
According to La Miccia, the migrants "are all veterans of the Balkan route" -- meaning they reached Italy by traveling through southeastern Europe. The organization also said that the migrants had been refused entry into the local reception center again and again, with local authorities reportedly saying there were no spots available. This, the organization said, left some of them sleeping in the city's parks.
Police: Reception center at capacity
Reception facilities in Asti have been overwhelmed by a large number of migrants arriving, according to a local police official.
"At the moment, Asti has received 850 [asylum seekers], and it is probably the most welcoming in the Piedmont region," Asti police commissioner Sebastiano Salvo said on Monday. "But the situation for those arriving via the Balkan routes is not regulated in the same way as it is for those landing in Sicily. There is a problem of saturation in the special reception centers."
He said that "from June until September, many asylum seekers were provided with accommodation". He also said that "those outside the police headquarters are never the same."
In June, 13 people were reportedly received, in July 15, in August 23, and in September 30.
'Procedures are not quick'
"The immigration office," Salvo said, "speaks every day with these people and tries to give precedence to those who came first. These youths have the characteristics of refugees but the procedures are not quick, in part because prefecture public notices for the CAS are made once a year. We are faced with a mass exodus due to hunger and climate change and Asti is working to comply with the laws but humanitarian responses must also be found."