Italy earthquake: African migrants among volunteers in quake zone helping survivors

Strong aftershocks in Italy as rescue efforts continue after Wednesday’s earthquake
WATCH ABOVE: The frantic search for survivors of Wednesday's earthquake in Italy continues but strong aftershocks are threatening rescue efforts. At least 281 people are dead and many are still missing. Jonathan Vigliotti has the latest from Amatrice, Italy.

PESCARA DEL TRONTO, Italy (Reuters) – African migrants hoping to start a new life in Italy after risking their lives crossing the Mediterranean have headed to the area of Wednesday’s earthquake, helping local people who lost everything in the disaster.

Wearing bright orange overalls, the group from a temporary hostel about 50 km (30 miles) away blended in on Friday with other volunteer workers who have come from all over Italy.READ MORE: State funeral to be held Saturday in honour of first victims of Italy earthquake“We need to help the people here,” said a 20-year-old man from the West African state of Benin, who gave his name only as Abdullah.
“We saw people losing their lives and we feel bad. It’s to show respect for them and their dignity,” he said.
Using shovels, hoes and rakes, the group of about 20 migrants helped to prepare the ground for tents and cleared a field for helicopter landings. During a break, the migrants, who are all Muslims, knelt to pray near one of the tents.WATCH: Aftershocks affecting rescue efforts following Italy earthquake
Aftershocks affecting rescue efforts following earthquake in Italy; at least 250 dead
Aftershocks affecting rescue efforts following earthquake in Italy; at least 250 dead
“It was their idea. They wanted to do something, so we helped make it happen,” said Letizia Dellabarba of the Human Solidarity Group (GUS) charity that brought the migrants to Pescara del Tronto.Hopes of finding more survivors faded on Friday three days after the powerful quake hit centralItaly, with the death toll rising to 267.Italy has taken in more than 420,000 boat migrants, most from Africa, since the start of 2014. The influx has caused political friction, with some right-wing parties lambasting the government for not doing more to halt the flow.Even the tragedy of the earthquake did not temper some anti-immigrant sentiment in the country.READ MORE: Restaurants around the world turn to Amatrice’s famous pasta to aid recoveryUnder a headline reading “Criminal State”, the right-wing newspaper Libero ran two pictures side-by-side on its front page – one showing Italian quake victims sleeping on the floor of a basketball court and another showing smiling African immigrants in front of a hotel where the government is putting them up.Dellabarba said most of the migrants who helped in the quake zone were from Burkina Fasso, Niger and Senegal and had arrived in Italy in boats run by human traffickers.She said some of them had been jailed in Libya before paying traffickers to travel on unseaworthy rubber boats to Sicily. Thousands of migrants have died trying to make the crossing.All of the group are seeking asylum in Italy, she added.
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