Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

THE INTERVIEW

Turkish troops to go further into Syria, says foreign minister

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

Court ruling expected on Gabon's contested election results

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Clinton's Comedy Turn

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

Sarkozy's Populist Pivot, Bahamas Leaks, Syria Truce, Rome Olympic Bid (Part 2)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

US Police Shootings: Race relations and the race to the White House (Part 1)

Read more

#TECH 24

Breaking the wall between technology and people

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Rural France: Challenges and opportunities

Read more

REPORTERS

Video: In Burma, ex-political prisoners struggle to return to normal life

Read more

ENCORE!

Xavier Dolan: Wunderkind of Québecquois cinema

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

2016-09-23 UK

The battle for UK Labour’s leadership

D-Day is fast approaching for the embattled leader of Britain's Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn. Just a year ago, the election of this radical London MP brought about a sharp swing...

Read more

2016-09-22 Vietnam

Vietnam's communist regime embraces capitalism, foreign investment

Critics say it's a country ruled by a communist regime which stifles any kind of political opposition. On the other hand, Vietnam has chosen to embrace a market economy, and...

Read more

2016-09-21 corruption

Will Spain's anti-corruption pact help clean up politics?

Systemic corruption by politicians divides political parties in Spain. It's also one of the main causes of the current political impasse. Spain's conservative People's Party has...

Read more

2016-09-20 migrants

Video: Cooking workshops spring up at French migrant camp

Grande-Synthe, near the northern port of Dunkirk, is France's first refugee camp to meet international standards. It is currently home to almost 1,500 people, mainly asylum...

Read more

2016-09-19 France

Video: Living with the aftermath of Nice's terror attack

This year's Bastille Day will stay firmly in the minds of those who celebrated on Nice's Promenade des Anglais - but for all the wrong reasons: 86 people were killed, and scores...

Read more