In the southern Italian town of Sant'Antimo, 13 kilometres north of Naples, a group of Bangladeshi migrants gathers in a small apartment on a Sunday afternoon for the weekly meeting to catch up on the rights and working conditions in the nearby factories. Most of them have recently arrived. And with the help of volunteers, are hoping to get asylum in Italy. Prince Islam, who has been in the country for 15 years, has become a point of reference for them. Every day he listens to their hopes for a better life in Europe.
29-year-old Bapare Leton used to own a grocery store in Dakar. But after he got robbed, he decided to leave for Italy. He arrived by boat from Libya, where smugglers confiscated his documents. Now he wants to find a proper job and to be joined one day by his wife and his five-year-old daughter, who are still in Bangladesh.
Bangladeshi migrants have become the second largest source of arrivals in Italy this year, after Nigerians, a big increase over last year. The trend has caught the attention of the EU, which has threatened to issue visa restrictions on Bangladesh unless it cooperates on accepting deported return migrants who have been denied asylum.
Those who remain are lucky to start working in restaurants or grocery stores, since many are subjected to low wage, slave-like work in the black economy.
In Rome, the neighbourhood of [INAUDIBLE] has emerged as one of the strongholds of the Bangladeshi community in Italy. And integration is working better. Still, many Bangladeshis just see it as a stepping stone to reach northern Europe, including the UK.
26-year-old Mridha Dulal works in a mobile phone shop. He says he's struggling. And as soon as he obtains his long-term residency permit, he would love to move to France, Germany, or Great Britain.
Shobin Islan, one of the founders of the Italia-Bangladesh Association, thinks that many underestimate the opportunities offered by Italy, and warns them against making the journey.
Nonetheless, Italy's southern shores keep being the first frontier between Europe and Africa, for Bangladeshis and migrants from other countries that are seeking a better life in Europe, especially after the controversial agreement struck between the EU and Turkey last year, bridges the crossings over the Aegean Sea, leaving war-torn Libya, the main launching point for refugee boats. And with no political solution in sight, migration continues in the central Mediterranean. David [INAUDIBLE], Financial Times, Sant'Antimo.