Italy migrant kids back to school after far-right exclusion

Deputy Prime Minister Salvini defended the move to bar migrant children from the school canteen as common sense

Migrant children who were barred from eating school lunch by their Italian town's draconian anti-immigrant council were able to go back to the canteen on Tuesday thanks to donations.

The far-right League which controls the town hall in Lodi, outside the northern city of Milan, had effectively barred migrant children from accessing school services including food, the school bus and the creche.

Authorities in the town of 45,000 people insisted that all families, including those from war-torn nations, provide documentation proving they have no source of income or wealth in their home countries.

Given that not many countries around the world can provide such documentation, many families from developing and war-torn nations saw the cost of sending their children to school triple.

Parents would instead bring their children to school on foot and give them a sandwich, which the school made them eat in a separate room.

The zealous application of the rules was exposed in a television reportage 10 days ago but has received the backing of far-right Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, also League head.

"If there are people with houses, land or money in their country, why should we give them services for free?... This isn't racism, this is justice and common sense," Salvini insisted on Monday.

The League's populist partner in government, the Five Star Movement, has been largely silent in the face of the crackdown, although its speaker of the lower house, Roberto Fico, has said the town should apologise to the children.

"It's not possible for the youngest to pay the price for others' errors," Fico said. "Integration means building shared spaces and places, precisely like the canteen."

A group of charitable and other associations in Lodi launched a public appeal and received more than the required 60,000 euros (70,000 dollars) within 48 hours.

As a result, 177 children can eat in the canteen once more, 75 can take the school bus and 23 can attend the creche, pending a court appeal against the exclusionary rules expected in December.