Tunisian Homeless found dead in Palermo. Third decease in 3 months

Redattoresociale.it – He was found yesterday under a porch, near the port of Palermo. The associations are outraged about a phenomenon that sees several migrants in difficulties, left out of the reception circuit. ‘They are lonely people, forced to live in conditions of complete social invisibility’.

PALERMO – Yesterday night, while many citizens wanted to celebrate the first day of the year, a 45 years old Tunisian homeless was found dead under a porch by volunteers, near the port of Palermo. Regional deputy Vincenzo Figuccia, along with his sister Sabrina, found him while bringing hot chocolate and panettone to this man who had been living in precarious conditions for a long time. ‘The solidarity turned into a moment of grief and anger – tells Figuccia – because I walked over to this man and I realised he was dead.’ Pointless were the attempts at CPR of the ambulance that arrived at the place shortly after, ascertaining the cardiac arrest. Another homeless man declared that the man had suffered from a fever over the previous days.

Unfortunately this is the third homeless that has died from distress and cold in the city in the past three months. Last December 21st another homeless of Polish origin was found dead inside an abandoned warehouse near the Mediterranean Fair. There was another victim in October. It is exactly during this period that the Mission for Hope and Charity of Biagio Conte – that receives in first emergency 1800 persons, mainly foreigners – collapses. In the case of the young Tunisian, there is much outrage expressed by the associations that assist migrants (especially Tunisians, Moroccans, and Egyptians) without any residence permit and left out of the reception system. These are people that, due to strong social invisibility status, live with the fear of being deported from our country from one moment to the next and are thus unlikely to accept help from institutions.

‘We do not fully know the story of this man – explains Fausto Melluso, in charge of Migration at Arci Palermo and activist of Arci Porco Rosso – but he is surely part of a group of vulnerable people that are victims of a political system that, by not recognizing their rights and therefore any type of international protection, are abandoned and left by themselves. There are a lot of young guys we support that are in the same conditions. As Arci Porco Rosso, located at Piazza Casa Professa, we have an information point where many of them take refuge during the day, having internet access but also a warm place to stay. We have North-African people here who are disorientated and without reference points as they are left out of the reception system. Without documents, they cannot even receive money from home. They are North-Africans who arrive in our territory and being rejected from the authorities that do not allow them to ask for asylum receive a letter with the order to leave the country within 7 days. It is obvious that they are forced to live in a condition of complete social invisibility that can also lead to serious consequences in terms of mental and physical health. Certainly, they are victims of the general political choices made by Italy and Europe that deny them the possibility to be received according to the law, thus leaving them to remain irregular. At the same time all the big cities where migrants generally flow together need to equip and prepare to address this problem.’

Also the Antiracist Forum of Palermo has often reported the extremely precarious situation in which many migrants on the streets live in. ‘Considering the overcrowding that at this period of time affects migrants living in the community of Biagio Conte, we, as the Antiracist forum, have reported several times this issue to the municipality. This situation is particularly related to the migrants in transit of different ages and those who have turned full age recently, almost all from North African origin – explains the activist Fausta Ferruzza. ‘We have also met as a delegation with the assessor and are currently negotiating to find a solution that can be implemented in a short period of time to react properly to this type of social emergency. This emergency should not cause other victims.’

The deceased man was known by the volunteers of the association who, in collaboration with the municipality, provides assistance and hot meals to the homeless. However, he never accepted the assistance of the municipality’s social services, probably because he did not have a residence permit. The assessor Giuseppe Mattina – who visited the site yesterday – says that ‘during this period the services on the streets and in the dormitories were augmented, as the number 091/6733432 has been activated by the municipality, by which it is possible to report situations of distress of homeless people. Other measures are scheduled for the following days in order to face the needs of these citizens, but it is obvious that any service or intervention has to be wanted and accepted from those who are concerned, who, as it seems to have happened in this case, fear and avoid contact with institutions.”

According to the mayor Leoluca Orlando ‘we are facing yet another tragedy caused by the inhuman politics that discriminate citizens, human beings, on the basis of their country of birth, yet another victim of the residence permit system, that pushes hundreds of people into the shadow, forced to renounce or refuse assistance and services out of fear of being deported.’

Serena Termini


Translation: Inés Fanlo Morales