Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

FOCUS

Sleeping rough, a compulsory step for asylum seekers in Paris?

Read more

ENCORE!

Film show: 'Southside With You', 'Nocturama' and remembering Gene Wilder

Read more

MIDDLE EAST MATTERS

US voices concern over Turkey's offensive in Syria

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

‘Paris committed to Syrian peace,’ French FM tells FRANCE 24

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Valls, Marianne and naked breasts

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Macron (metaphorically) kills his father

Read more

THE DEBATE

France Ambassadors Conference: Hollande outlines foreign policy priorities (part 2)

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

Somalia: Car bomb outside presidential palace kills at least 10

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Socialists complain of Macron's 'betrayal' of Hollande

Read more

Our Focus programme brings you exclusive reports from around the world. From Monday to Friday at 7.45 am Paris time.

FOCUS

FOCUS

Latest update : 2014-08-27

Video: Milan is starting point for Syrian refugees’ European odyssey

© FRANCE 24 screen grab

Italy's financial and fashion capital Milan has become an established transit point for refugees, especially for those escaping the brutal civil war in Syria, who make their way to northern Europe in the hope of rebuilding their shattered lives.

The city’s welcoming reputation has brought a flood of Syrians, and now the national and city authorities are calling for more solidarity from the EU to deal with the problem.

Milan’s majestic 1930s railway station is where the European journey begins for many Syrian arrivals.

Badraddine Alkrayem, an orthopaedic surgeon from Raqqa in northern Syria, arrived at the station with his wife and three children after an overnight train journey from Sicily.

The family paid people smugglers 15,000 US dollars to cross treacherous seas to get to Europe in a journey they dubbed the Voyage of Death.

“Milan is where our journey begins,” he told FRANCE 24. “From here we hope to reach our destinations, God willing.”

Alkrayem is one of over 16,000 Syrian refugees that have come through Milan since October last year. More than a third of the refugees are children.

‘We decided not to look away’

To help these refugees, Milan’s city council launched the Syrian Emergency project, coordinating various NGOs, charities and volunteers.

They register new arrivals, provide basic needs, medical assistance, children support and assign them a safe place to stay. Milan’s municipal resources are stretched to the limit.

Pierfrancesco Majorino, who is councillor for social policies on the city council, said the city could not stand by while entire families arrived with no food or shelter.

“We could have effectively not bothered about them, looked the other way and done nothing,” he said. “We could have let them roam around this station or elsewhere, leaving them at the hands of organised crime.

“Instead, we decided not to look away. We decided not to let a child sleep on the marble floor of this station.”

Most stay in Milan for five days before heading north

But Milan’s generosity may have added to the city’s problems, however, as the good news spreads fast.

Sami Tabbakh said he came to Milan on the recommendation of fellow refugees.

“We came to Milan because our friends suggested that we should come here because there is shelter, there is some food that can be provided free,” he said. “We can find smugglers who can take us from Milan to Sweden, Germany and to all these places.”

While Milan has become a popular destination, it is just a stop-gap for most of these refugees and Syrians looking for a new life in Europe stay an average of five days in the city.

Alkrayem and his family are on the move again. They have tickets to Ventimiglia in the northwest of the country near the French border, and hope to go to France and maybe beyond.

They’ve come this far and are determined to rebuild their lives.

By Seema GUPTA

COMMENT(S)

Archives

2016-08-31 France

Sleeping rough, a compulsory step for asylum seekers in Paris?

In this edition we focus on asylum seekers here in France. For several months, makeshift migrant camps have been springing up in the streets of Paris, often constituting a health...

Read more

2016-08-30 prisons

Video: Meeting US inmates as Obama pushes for criminal justice reform

With over two million people behind bars, the United States has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world. Barack Obama, the first US president to have visited a...

Read more

2016-08-29 Israel

The rise of political tourism in the Middle East

Every year, millions of tourists visit Israel and the West Bank to discover the historical and religious treasures of the region, the birthplace of Christianity, Islam and...

Read more

2016-08-26 Gabon

Pro-Opposition stronghold Port-Gentil feverishly awaits presidential elections

This Saturday, Gabon will be electing its next president in a one round vote. 11 candidates were initially in the running, among them incumbent president Ali Bongo Ondimba and...

Read more

2016-08-25 Germany

Chancellor Merkel's immigration policy faces test on her home turf

In Germany the final days of campaigning are winding down ahead of this weekend's elections in two of the country's federated States. Immigration and integration are key issues...

Read more