Italy: Asian unionist's death sparks political row

Rome, 10 Dec. (AKI) - The death of a homeless Pakistani who founded Italy's first trade union for migrant workers has provoked a bitter reaction. Mouhammad Muzzaffar Ali, whose nickname was 'Shere Khan' or 'The Tiger' was found dead on a street near Rome's central railway station early on Wednesday.

"This is a scandal for the capital of a democratic country," said Giulia Rodano, the councillor responsible for culture in Rome's surrounding Lazio region.

An autospy was due to be carried out on 55-year-old Ali to establish the precise cause of his death. But his body reportedly showed no apparent signs of physical violence.

Ali, of no fixed abode, had been sleeping rough for several days after leaving Rome's Ponte Galleria immigrant holding centre. There was no indication of whether he had family members in Italy.

Rome's city councillor for social policy, Sveva Belviso, urged the homeless to seek accommodation in shelters.

"Our winter anti-cold campaign has been in place since 1 December and the city council can house around 600 people in 11 shelters across the city," Belviso stated.

During the early 1990s Ali led the occupation by homeless immigrants and Italians of the former Pantanella pasta factory in Rome.

In the late 1980s he founded the United Asian Workers Association (UAWA) which was the first union to fight for immigrant workers' rights to work, housing and political asylum.

"Shere Khan was a political refugee. After he and his workers were evicted from the factory in via Salaria, he suffered real persecution by the authorities," said Alessandra Caligiuri from the Dhummcatu Asian immigrants' association.

"As he was single, the city council didn't even find him a bed. He is the umpteenth victim of the failure of Italian policies to welcome immigrants," Caligiuri said.


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