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19 Oct, 2018 11:42

Equality or discrimination? Italians divided after migrant kids denied school meals

Equality or discrimination? Italians divided after migrant kids denied school meals

New laws banning some 200 migrant children, living in a conservative Italian city, from accessing school meals or buses if their parents fail to provide appropriate documents have been blasted as "unfair" by locals, RT reports.

The northern city of Lodi earlier this week made national and international headlines after its government controversially announced it will require foreigners to provide documents detailing their financial status so they can carry on accessing subsidies.

Failure to provide such documentation, which can be difficult for migrants to get hold of from their country of origin, would result in their children losing their right to state benefits, including school buses and free meals.

Amid reports of kids being forced to eat at home, cut off by the rest of their classmates, RT took to the streets of the town and talked to both migrants and locals to see what they had to say.

A Muslim woman said she struggles to find the words to explain to her son why he suddenly cannot sit at the table with his classmates for lunch.

"I don't have answers for my son. What should I say? We as foreigners have to produce these documents," she told RT.

The new resolution by Sara Casanova, the mayor from Matteo Salvini's League party, requires migrants to prove that they do not have property back in their home country. Those who fail to do so will have to fork out 5 euros a day for their children to be fed at the school canteen, rather than the subsidized price of 2 euros.

One local woman said she vehemently opposes the mayor's decision as it is not only detrimental to the wellbeing of foreigners but also to that of locals.

"It should be forbidden to impede the integration of kids with others, it's a pity for town children to have lost the opportunity to interact with other cultures."

She went on: "The mayor's measure are unfair, just because they may have property abroad it doesn't mean they're rich here."

The measures were initially backed by right-wing Northern League party leader Salvini, who said if foreigners already have money and properties back home, "why should we
give them services for free, while Italians pay for everything?"

"Enough, the gravy is finished.

"This is not racism, it's justice and good sense," the interior minister added.

But the plans drew so much opposition up and down the country that a campaign to crowdfund the children's meals raised €60,000. It will allow for the children to dine in the school canteen until the end of the year.

Luigi di Maio, leader of the Five Star Movement party which is currently part of the coalition government and who usually sides with the League party, this time condemned the plans saying "this state will always be on the side of children," and that "kids are untouchable." 

Amid such widespread outcry and allegations of the city imposing an "apartheid" regime, Salvini was forced to U-turn on his support for the resolution and announced that self-certification would be enough.

There are locals, however, who wholeheartedly agree with the mayor's decision to impose restrictions on migrants, who in the northern city are predominantly African.

"I completely agree with the mayor's decision because all those foreigners have properties in their countries of origin," one woman told RT.

Italian journalist Alessandra Bocchi pointed out that the groups being targeted are not refugees but economic migrants. She defended the mayor's resolution saying that it's "not about excluding them but asking them to follow the same laws that apply to Italian families."

"If anything it's about equality, not discrimination," Bocchi added to RT.

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