From next Monday, there will be two number 24 bus lines in Foggia (Puglia, Italy), one for local residents and the other for immigrants. Both will leave from the city centre and both will go to the same destination, Borgo Mezzanone. But the buses and stops will be completely different, as will the terminals. The local residents’ number 24 will connect Via Galliani in the centre with Borgo Mezzanone while the 24/1 will be shuttling passengers between the station and the asylum seekers’ reception centre (CARA). The decision by Foggia’s transport authority, ATAF, to duplicate the service and terminals was taken after a series of meetings at the prefecture and with the full agreement of the ministry of the interior.
The reasons behind the move are convenience (“The reception centre is a couple of kilometres from Borgo Mezzanone itself”) and public safety (“Relations between immigrants and residents can degenerate into brawls”).
But ACIS, the association of foreign communities in Italy, maintains: “Apartheid is no solution”. Puglia’s regional president Nichi Vendola stepped in to say: “The service smacks of separation and should be withdrawn as soon as possible”. Trials for the 24/1 line started several weeks ago with a shared terminal. Next Monday, the new dual service will come into force with new timetables and adjustments to the route. Foggia’s Centre-left mayor, Orazio Ciliberti, defended the move: “Racism doesn’t come into it. This is an opportunity for an improved service that saves CARA residents, civilians and police officers two extra kilometres to get to the bus stop in Borgo Mezzanone. No one is stopping immigrants from catching the other bus”. Nevertheless, Mr Ciliberti does not deny that public safety is the reason behind the decision. He refers to friction with the local population and the wounding of a bus driver. Mr Ciliberti alleges: “It’s all down to overcrowding at the centre. Instead of the 200 or 300 immigrants it can house, there are anything from 800 to 1,000”. The president of ACIS, Habib Sgaier, was quick to reply: “This is how ATAF is attempting to solve the problem of a few violent non-EU immigrants, if there are any. But it’s not a solution. A delegation from Borgo Mezzanone has contacted us to say that local residents did not request the new line”.
Unfortunately, that's the way we are dealing with the “new Italian Berlusconian way of life”…