20 Jun 2015

Migrant crisis: from Eritrea across Europe by rail


As Europe’s leaders argue over the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean, Paraic O’Brien travels with a family of Eritreans as it makes its way from Italy to Germany, encountering chaos on the way.

At 11 o’clock every night, two coaches on the Bolzano-bound train out of Rome are full of immigrants. They do not have travel documents, just train tickets.

The increasing numbers of immigrants arriving in Italy by boat was discussed by David Cameron and the Italian prime minister this week. As they were talking, immigrants were making their way to the Italian city of Bolzano.

The tale they told was a familiar one: held by Libyan people traffickers until their families paid up.

When they arrived at Bolzano on the Austrian border, the Italian police initially tried to stop them from travelling on to the southern German city of Munich, but they made it there eventually.

It was the moment one family had been waiting for. After leaving Eritrea as asylum seekers, they crossed the Sahara, encountering people traffickers in Libya before taking a boat across the Mediterranean.

When the immigrants arrived in Munich, the larger group was placed in a holding pen by the German police before being taken to a detention centre. But for the family, with an asylum claim, it was a different story. Another long journey beckoned – to Holland.