Somali refugees say life in Europe destroyed / PHOTO

Refugee says what I found out is that my future and my life in Europe was destroyed, because I never had such a desperate life as here.

Somali refugees say life in Europe destroyed / PHOTO

Crouched in a ruined salon of the former Somali embassy in Rome, a group of refugees cook dinner over an open fire, flames shooting up as someone adds an extra squirt of methylated spirits under the metal pot.

The building is one of the handsome red villas typical of Rome's diplomatic district but the broken windows and abandoned embassy cars rusting in the driveway stand out conspicuously in the prosperous neighbourhood.

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(A Somalian refugee rests inside the garage of the former Somali embassy in downtown Rome.)

Inside about 200 refugees live crammed into the four-storey building, which is still the property of the Somali state but was abandoned as an embassy after the collapse of the last stable government in Mogadishu in the 1990s.

"I left Somalia because there is a civil war which has been going on for 20 years," said Abukar Mohamed, who set out from Mogadishu in 2006 to come to Italy.

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(Somalian refugees walk past an abandoned diplomatic car in the courtyard of the former Somali embassy in downtown Rome.)

Most of the men in the building have valid papers allowing them to stay in Italy but, unable to find work or opportunities for study, many are desperate to go elsewhere where jobs are easier to find.

Mohamed Osman Ali, who arrived in Italy in 2008, has tried to enter Austria, Norway and Sweden but been sent back each time and now finds himself with no other home than the ruined embassy and its makeshift community.

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(A Somalian refugee uses methylated spirits as he cooks inside a salon of the former Somali embassy in downtown Rome.)

The men organise cleaning and cooking among themselves, stow bedding away in the morning and keep order. But overcrowding and poverty mean that life is a grim struggle.

"We live eight or nine people in one room, some of us are sick with diseases like tuberculosis, and we get diseases from each other, skin diseases, respiratory diseases," he said.

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(Somalian refugees stand in front of the former Somali embassy in downtown Rome.)

Italian police raided the building just over a month ago following complaints from neighbours but after verifying papers, they sent everyone back to the embassy.

Tens of thousands of people have died and more than a million have been displaced in Somalia since Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991 by rival warlords who then turned on each other, leaving a vacuum that has opened the way to two decades of bloodshed.

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(Somalian refugees stand in front of the former Somali embassy in downtown Rome.)

Abukar Mohamed left Mogadishu in July 2006, travelling through Libya and reaching Sicily in 2007. He said he was given political asylum and told he could go wherever he wanted but he received no other assistance.

"My goal was to go abroad, build a future and study and lead a better life," he said.

"I'm a young man, I want to study, work and grow, this was my project. But what I found out is that my future and my life in Europe was destroyed, because I never had such a desperate life as here," he said.


Reuters

Last Mod: 29 Aralık 2010, 09:29
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