The authorities in Rome this week demolished the Ponte Mammolo informal settlement where some people have lived permanently for well over a decade. Claims that residents were given advanced notice of the arrival of the bulldozsrs are disputed. The migrations from North Africa into Italy have seen some 200 new and transient people living on a parking lot for tourist buses in front of the main settlement, as they make their way north in search of jobs.
The International New York Times (16-17 May) reports a Rome city council woman, Ms.Danese, as saying that that the council needs to integrate the residents and also provide a “humanitarian corridor” for new immigrants heading north. However, the funds are not there to do this. Meanwhile some 170,000 migrants crossed the Medierranean to reach Italy last year. Humanitarian groups agree that the camp had become untenable in its recent form, but argue that sudden demolition is not the way to reach a solution. There are also suggestions that the clearance was linked to the success of anti-immigrant parties in local elections, and that the “clean up” was influenced by the Jubilee celebrations of the Roman Catholic church which is expected to draw many tourists to the city in December.
With the multiple crises in North Africa triggering increased attempts by desperate people to escape to Europe, informal settlements look likely to become an increasing familiar aspect of European urbanism. Austerity is also creating its own problems of affordability for those drawn to the cities in the hope of finding jobs that then pay too little to support decent local accommodation. Expect growing debates about how to handle Europe’s shanty towns.
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