Italian mayor asks refugees and school children to ride separate buses

Rival politician likens decision to 'apartheid' and says 'problems are not solved by discriminating'

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Refugees should avoid using the same public buses as local school children, the mayor of a town in northern Italy has said.

Pierangelo Oliviero met with a local bus company and the owners of a hotel where a group of refugees are currently staying in the town of Calizzano, near Turin.

He argued local buses had 48 seats - not enough for schoolchildren and 40 local refugees to ride at the same time in the early morning. He suggested the refugees staying at Hotel Lux seek to use a different mode of transport, to combat overcrowding.

“It’s simply a matter of common sense,” Mr Oliviero told local paper Il Vostro Giornale. “I haven’t posted any ban or order, and I haven’t even thought of doing so.

“There is no action, no ban, only a request. I want to find a solution to a problem reported by the community that the mayor must take responsibility for.

"The integration projects implemented by the municipality are some of the most significant opportunities for interaction designed to facilitate the integration with the local community."

The mayor pointed to the involvement of migrants in local volunteering projects around Calizzano and their participation in sports events as examples of their integration.

It’s simply a matter of common sense

Pierangelo Oliviero, mayor of Calizzano

Rafaella Paita, a member of the ruling Democratic Party, likened Mr Oliveiro’s decision to “apartheid” and described the move as “shameful”.

“Problems are not solved by discriminating against people,” she said.

Several “episodes of tension” involving refugees were reported by residents, and police were called to the hotel after a fight broke out between refugees, with two men being taken to hospital for treatment.

The National Association of Italian Municipalities defended Mr Oliveiro’s comments, describing how Calizzano had been one of the first towns in the region to integrate refugees and now housed more refugees than had been originally agreed.

Refugees arriving by sea to Italy are now the main problem faced by the European Union in its efforts to stem mass immigration, the head of the bloc's border agency has said.

Italy has now overtaken Greece as the main point of entry for refugees trying to reach Europe, figures from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) show, with more than 144,000 reaching Italy so far this year.