Realized with the support of the NatGeo Society’s Covid-19 Emergency Fund for Journalists

Following the emergency linked to the spread of the coronavirus, Italy has started living its worst nightmare since World War II. In the city of Rome, where about 8,000 homeless people live, the most vulnerable are particularly exposed to the risk of infection.

The institutions are not doing much to help this disadvantaged segment of the population. Only charities, NGOs and a few associations are taking care of them, giving information about the Covid-19 virus and the importance of social distancing, providing them with masks, hand sanitizer, self-certifications, food and blankets. Then, to make matters worse, in the last two years, a massive intervention on immigration had profoundly changed the rules for the reception of asylum seekers, those regarding rescue at sea, citizenship and asylum in Italy. Migrants were deprived of humanitarian protection and several accommodation centers were closed, leaving thousands of people with no choice but to find makeshift solutions and live on the streets. After long journeys fleeing from areas of conflict, most of them now face the global pandemic amid rising anti-immigrant sentiment. During this time, social differences matter even more and are indeed magnified. Some people have obtained housing autonomy through job placement, but these are a minority, most people continue to live on the street and work off the books. During Italy’s lockdown, many migrants have been working as food delivery riders and then were evicted from their shelters. Others were found dead in the street, after being abandoned to their fate. In October 2020, Italy’s government has finally revised the “security decree”, softening the anti-immigration policies with the reintroduction of the “humanitarian protection” for asylum seekers. Despite that, many people felt the shameful side of “welcome to Italy” on their skin: the other way to die for Covid, little by little, forgotten by institutions. We are all in the same storm, but not on the same boat.