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Like elsewhere in Europe, Italy has seen a steady rise in immigrants over the past two decades.
Like elsewhere in Europe, Italy has seen a steady rise in immigrants over the past two decades.
Riccardo Arena

TRAPANI - After Pretoria until 1993, and Alabama through the early 1960's, the Italian city of Trapani has discovered Apartheid in 2013.

The cold bureaucratic language of Trapani City Council member Andrea Vassalo leaves little room for doubts: the head of the council's urban territory commission cited the "frequent complaints of the indigenous" (using exactly that word, indigenous) who are tired of sharing buses with immigrants going from the city center to the outlying district of Salinagrande, where there is a reception center for asylum seekers.

And so a transport service in Trapani exclusively dedicated to immigrants has been proposed for the city on the west coast of the island of Sicily. The bus would be "checked and controlled by police, in order to avoid dangers to law and order which unfortunately may arise."

Ninni Passalacqua, another city council member, lashed out at the proposal: "We cannot think of alternative routes, we cannot think of Apartheid."

The National Secretary of CGIL, Italy's largest labor union, Mimma Argurio also was critical: "Rather than thinking of creating separatism, the council member should reflect on the plight of the migrants, implement integration policies and fight alongside the unions against unscrupulous employers who exploit them in the fields all day with scant protections and low wages."

The problem regarding the coexistence between "indigenous" and immigrants on the bus, according to some local passengers, is that the bus that goes to Salinagrande is often full of people going to the reception center, some of whom "get drunk and disturb."

Now the problem has landed in front of the city council's urban territory committee, presided over by Vassallo. After local backlash, the politician is now backtracking. "I was misunderstood," he said. "I didn't want to propose a line for just black people. I did not use the word "black" at all."

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