A town in the Italian region of Liguria has set up separate buses for migrants following repeated complaints from its citizens. In the past two years, only 40 migrants have moved to the town of Calizzano, inhabited by 1,545 people.
Locals, however, started complaining that the buses were too overcrowded in the morning and repeatedly asked authorities to set up separates buses.
Some citizens told Il Fatto Quotidiano newspaper that the refugees had integrated into society and had "brought some life" in Calizzano, where the majority of its inhabitants are elderly people.
However, following an alleged argument between Ivorian and Nigerian migrants at the weekend, the authorities decided it was necessary to start addressing citizens' complaints.
"We did everything we could to allow migrants to integrate, but now the atmosphere has changed," Calizzano's mayor, Pierangelo Olivieri, told the Secolo XIX newspaper. He added it was necessary to set up separate buses for refugees.
Olivieri explained that the authorities had asked a local cooperative – which, among other things, aims to promote social integration and rehabilitation – to mediate with the refugees and explain the new rules they have to follow to use public transportation. Refugees are now allowed to use only one bus in the morning, which departs at 6:15am.
"We asked the cooperative to explain to our guests that they should not use, unless necessary, the 6:30 and 6:45 buses, which are already overcrowded," Olivieri explained. "It is not about racism or intolerance. We have shown quite the opposite in the past two years."
However, Danilo Pisan, the cooperative's president, claimed the decision to have separate buses echoed South Africa's racial segregation system, known as apartheid, which ended in 1994.
A Calizzano citizen known as Marco, explained that local buses are often overcrowded and people are exasperated. "Yes, the atmosphere on the buses is not pleasant," he said. "Some people talk too much and look at girls not in a nice way. But, above all, the buses are crammed and we feel like beasts. When people feel uncomfortable, they look for a scapegoat and this time, they have targeted migrants. We just need more buses in the morning."
This is not the first time that people have been accused of trying to implement "apartheid-like" measures targeting migrants in Italy. In October, an elementary school in Sardinia came under fire after teachers forced two child refugees, from Egypt and Ethiopia, to use separate toilets.