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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Italian, Austrian Police Increase Checks On Migrants

Brenner is the last stop in Italy before you get to Austria. It's changing as more and more migrants are coming here, trying to get north. (BBC)

Brenner is the last stop in Italy before you get to Austria. It’s changing as more and more migrants are coming here, trying to get north. (BBC)

We’ve heard a lot about the arduous and dangerous sea journeys many migrants make to Europe — often landing on the island of Lampedusa off the south of Italy.

But at the north of the country, many are struggling to carry on their journey. Most want to make their way to a new life in the U.K. or Germany or Scandinavia, but a pinch point has built up at the Brenner Pass, the Alpine border between Austria and Italy.

The BBC’s Bethany Bell reports.




From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Jeremy Hobson. It's HERE AND NOW.

We've heard a lot about the long and dangerous sea journeys that many migrants make to Europe, often landing on the island of Lampedusa off the south of Italy. But the migrants that do make it into Italy sometimes have trouble continuing their journey north, perhaps to Germany or Scandinavia or the U.K. Some are being turned back at the Brenner Pass, the Alpine border between Austria and Italy. The BBC's Bethany Bell reports.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Foreign language spoken)

BETHANY BELL: Four Syrian men tell me how they've just been deported back to Italy from Austria. They were trying to get by train from Verona in Italy to Munich in Germany. But they didn't get far. Twenty kilometers into Austria, they were caught by the Austrian police near the Brenner Pass and were sent back to Italy. They told me the Italian authorities had encouraged them to go north, and the Austrian police who arrested them told them to ask human smuggling gangs for help the next time they try to cross the border.

This is Brenner in South Tyrol, Italy's German-speaking province. It's a sleepy little place set in stunning Alpine scenery. But it's changing because so many migrants are coming here. And the locals aren't happy. As he grilled frankfurters at his sausage stand near Brenner station, Carl(ph) told me he's been robbed several times this year.

CARL: (Through Translator) Yes. Every day people try to get over the border, and usually they don't have any money. And sometimes, even when they do have money, they look around and notice my sausage stall. And then my money is gone. And they even eat the sausages.


BELL: Politicians in Italy say Austria should let more migrants through. They say Italy can't cope with the flood of people arriving on its shores. The Austrians say they're just enforcing the law. They say they do accept people who apply for asylum in Austria but not those in transit. One of Austria's top policeman, Gerard Tutsken(ph), told me a Europe-wide solution is needed.

GERARD TUTSKEN: We have to have, within Europe, a common system, a common system on asylum, a common system on legal migration. There are different exception rates on asylum status, and this is more and more positive for criminal business for human smugglers.

BELL: At Brenner, there's already a sprinkling of snow on the mountains. Winters here are hard. Leonhard Voightner(ph) from Caritas in South Tyrol says something has to be done for the migrants stranded at the border.

LEONHARD VOIGHTNER: We cannot close our eyes to the needs of the persons. Brenner, in a few months, will be covered by snow. People will come out of a train where they traveled for two days. They will be hungry. There are very young children. We just cannot leave them alone. It's very much like a Lampedusa problem. On the ground, still, you have to do something to help people.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: (Foreign language spoken)

BELL: For the four Syrians, the winter is one of their biggest fears. With little money and nowhere to stay, their future is now very uncertain.

HOBSON: The BBC's Bethany Bell. And tomorrow we're going to continue to follow migrants, making their way through Europe. We'll here from BBC correspondent Matthew Price, who speaks with one family about their difficult journey from their home in Syria to Vienna, Austria by way of Egypt, Libya and Italy. That is coming up tomorrow on HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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