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From Lampedusa to Berlin, Immigrant Anger At Italy

Oct. 2013 protest in support of Lampedusa refugees in front of Berlin's Brandenburg Gate
Oct. 2013 protest in support of Lampedusa refugees in front of Berlin's Brandenburg Gate
Tonia Mastrobuoni

BERLIN "You're the ones who created this mess I'm in..."

Mohammad points his finger at me, and doesn’t even want to tell me his real first name: "Call me Mohammad, we are all the same to you racist Italians anyway ."

His age, though, he does tell me: He's 47, but looks a bit younger thanks to the dreadlocks framing his face and the sweatshirt he's wearing. Another man who is standing behind him approaches as he hears the word "Italian," but only to spit a few inches from my right foot. Then he yells a few words at me in Arabic, and leaves.

A small group of people has begun to gather around me, and they're not friendly. A tall guy as skinny as a Giacometti statue sums it up for the others: "I hate Italy. You gave us 500 euros and expelled us with that damn document that doesn’t allow us to work here."

This is happening in the Kreuzberg neighborhood of the German capital. Years ago, when people spoke of Berlin as the "third largest Turkish city," and before the gentrification began, this neighborhood was the heart of the city's foreign community.

One of the main squares of the area, along the channels of the Spree river, is Oranienplatz : It was occupied last year by hundreds of immigrants who built cabins, an outdoor kitchen, common areas with recycled sofas and chairs. Many who gathered here here had arrived after experiencing the inferno that is the sea journey to Lampedusa , l ike Mohammad, the anonymous Giacometti and Ali did.

"No man is illegal," reads a sign on Oranienplatz — Photo: fotokorth via Instagram

I catch a glimpse of a less hostile face, while the others continue to rail on against Italy. He nods his head inviting me to follow him. "I'm Libyan. When you started to bomb Libya , I fled. And now I'm here." He takes me to his hut made of four tin walls at the bottom of Oranienplatz. Inside there is just enough space for a bed, a table and a small heater. Outside on this late March day, it is still cold, but inside it is steaming hot.

A pro-Gaddafi carpenter

Ali tells me the obvious: since the group from Lampedusa was “received” in Italy and because of the abstruse European rules, other countries can safely wash their hands of the problem. "I am not asking for much: a job, a normal house."

To go to the bathroom or to take a shower, refugees have to go to the Caritas headquarters, situated behind the square . Recently, they've been also allowed to cook there, while before food was prepared directly in the square.

Only last week a preliminary agreement was reached between local politicians and representatives of Oranienplatz, after months of exhausting negotiations: Berlin promises to take care of each one of them, in exchange of the evacuation of the square.

But Ali, like the other “Lampedusiani,” rejects the agreement. "It does not solve our problems," he explains, saying the issue should be solved at the federal and European level.

Paula Riester, representative of the Green Party in Kreuzberg argues that Germany “could give these refugees a so-called "Duldung" which is a permit to stay, "making an exception to the European rules."

In the hut of another North African refugee , a carpenter named Ibrahim says he's proud to be a " Libyan Loyal to Gaddafi .” The table next to the bed is dominated by a big stereo always switched on, sharing space with a white teddy bear that reminds him of home.

" You Italians have treated me badly ," he says. "I have been hunted and now I'm here praying the Germans give me a job. How can you come to Africa, dethrone Gaddafi while preaching for human rights and then treat us like this?”

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Zaluzhny vs. Zelensky: Ukraine's Heavyweight Feud Puts The War At Risk

Tensions keep brewing between Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, and his military chief, Valerii Zaluzhny. Coming at a critical point in the war's deadlock, the disputes risk undermining Ukrainian unity and playing into Russia's hands.

February 24, 2023, Kyiv: Commander-in-Chief of Ukraine Armed Forces Valeriy Zaluzhny salutes during ceremonies marking the 1st anniversary of the Russian invasion

Ukrainian Presidents Office/ ZUMA
Roman Romaniuk & Roman Kravets,


KYIV — On November 20, Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin made an unannounced visit to Ukraine .

Austin's arrival was initially intended as a show of respect to Ukrainian war heroes and a reaffirmation of Washington's steadfast support for Kyiv. However, this visit inadvertently exacerbated tensions between Ukraine’s top military leader, Valerii Zaluzhny, and its President, Volodymyr Zelensky.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war , with our exclusive international coverage.

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"After Austin's arrival,” one Ukrainian government insider revealed, “it seemed Zelensky was suddenly about to replace Zaluzhny. Eventually, though, their conflicts faded away, and were replaced by sarcastic banter.”

Recent weeks have seen global media outlets reporting on the details of the "conflict" between the Ukrainian president and the Armed Forces head. In response, the President’s Office dismissed all such claims as Russian propaganda .

Amidst the ongoing threat looming over Ukraine, disputes between the country's top leaders aren't surprising. Such disagreements can even be seen as part of the carrying out of any war .

The root of tensions between the nation's president and its ranking head of the Armed Forces, can be traced to a complicated blend of war and politics. Zelensky's involvement in military planning and command during the war has caused friction as he's integrated political elements into the traditionally apolitical sphere of the army, inadvertently making Zaluzhny a visible figure in the political arena.

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