Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

TALKING EUROPE

Dealing with returning jihadists: Is de-radicalisation possible?

Read more

ENCORE!

Noel Gallagher, Bryce Dessner and ‘David Bowie is’ in Paris

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

'Agent Storm': How a militant Islamist became a CIA spy

Read more

FOCUS

China: New reform set to benefit migrants

Read more

THE OBSERVERS

Caged children in Syria and dumpster diving in Ivory Coast

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

French local elections: April 21st all over again?

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Nemtsov murder: 'Calculated political violence'

Read more

EYE ON AFRICA

Paul Kagame visits UNESCO HQ in Paris

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Samsung hopes to win back lost ground with new phones

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

2015-03-02 China

China: New reform set to benefit migrants

A massive reform in China is designed to help thousands of people who until now have been stuck in a logistical nightmare. At the moment, people are issued with a "Hukou", a...

Read more

2015-02-27 Qatar

Qatar's unofficial motto: To attract at all costs

Qatar is one of the smallest countries in the world and its citizens are among the richest on the planet. Qataris often make it into the headlines for buying up football clubs...

Read more

2015-02-26 poverty

India: Anti-corruption party vows to end Delhi's 'VIP culture'

India's Common Man's Party, or AAP, has won a stunning victory in the latest Delhi state elections. The movement was only created a year and a half ago, and its aims are simple: ...

Read more

2015-02-25 refugees

Australia 'resettles' asylum seekers in Cambodia

They left behind war and poverty to seek asylum in Australia, but instead thousands of would-be refugees from countries such as Iraq, Syria and Burma are being sent back across...

Read more

2015-02-24 Morocco

Tackling underage marriage in Morocco

In Morocco, child marriages have been banned since 2004. But due to a legal loophole, officials say tens of thousands of girls are married every year before the age of 18. The...

Read more