Hundreds of migrants scuffled with police and briefly blocked a major road in Italy’s financial capital Milan on Monday in a protest against their living conditions and their long wait for authorisation to seek work.
Chanting “documents, documents,” around 300 migrants held up traffic on a main route into the city, with riot police called in to push the men back into their near-by temporary camp, where they are awaiting registration and identity papers.
The protesters came primarily from Africa. “This home is not good, this home is not good,” one of the migrants shouted.
More than 100,000 migrants have reached Italy so far this year by sea, according to an Interior Ministry tally. While many of the newcomers look to move swiftly to wealthier northern Europe, at least 85,000 are housed in Italian shelters, often hoping for temporary documents that will let them seek work.
As in other European countries, the huge influx has created political tensions, with some opposition parties demanding a much more robust approach to tackling the migrants.
“What the hell! They are guests here who we are paying for and they are busting our balls,” Matteo Salvini, the leader of the rightist Northern League party wrote on his Facebook page after the Milan protest.
“I would put them on the first plane and send them all home,” he added.
Salvini’s anti-immigration rhetoric has helped turned the League – a party traditionally rooted in the north – into Italy’s third-most popular political party.