Don’t call it a welcome – His name was Anwar, the 20-year-old Eritrean boy who died hit by a car in an attempt to escape from the Villa Sikania asylum center in the province of Agrigento. In 2019 Borderline Sicilia and Asgi reported to the prefecture the severe sanitary conditions and the lack of minimum standards of reception. Priest Mussie Zerai: “He found death in the same country that was supposed to guard him, keep him safe, and protect him”.
Lampedusa is not the only hotspot. If the much-discussed centre of the island, which after the last landings has reached 1,300 guests, will be evacuated in a short time with the sending off the island of two other sumptuous quarantine ships arranged by the Government, in Siculiana, in the same province of Agrigento, a 20-year-old Eritrean boy died hit by a car in an attempt to escape from the center of Villa Sikania and some policemen were injured while chasing him.

For the whole afternoon, the migrants hosted in the structure had protested on the roofs for various reasons, among which the prolonged period of “preventive” quarantine longer than 14 days and for the conditions already reported to the Asp and the Prefecture of Agrigento in 2019 by the association Borderline Sicilia and Asgi*.

The complaints presented in July 2019 concerned the serious health and hygiene situation in the reception center and the failure to comply with minimum reception standards. As early as 2019, Borderline Sicilia and Asgi had already found overcrowding, promiscuity, lack of sanitary facilities, lack of cots for children, and even bed bugs. The situation of migrants’ centers in Sicily, as reported by Vita in March, did not meet the requirements to counter the spread of contagious diseases. “We have found in different migrants’ centers in Sicily – during the Covid-19 emergency – conditions of overcrowding, prolonged detention and very slow transfer to the other regions”, explains Paola Ottaviano, one of the founders of Borderline Sicilia. “It is clear that if you do not respect the 14 days of preventive quarantine you are facing illegal detention”, adds Anna Paola Ammirati of Asgi.

According to Mussie Zerai, an Eritrean priest already nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, the death of the young man could have been avoided. “I wonder why no one listened to the protest of those young people who had climbed onto the rooftops in the early afternoon. It is a death that gives so much pain, a boy of only 20 years who dies in this way after surviving the detention centers in Libya and the Mediterranean crossing. He found death in the same country that was supposed to guard him, keep him safe, and protect him” adds the priest who also expresses his closeness to the wounded policemen. “I wonder, however, if there was no other way to solve this matter. Why were these people protesting? When people say that migrants bring Covid-19 and then migrants are all crowded in the centers, who is thinking about their health? And don’t they have the right to think about their health?”.

Also, the Astalli Center appealed to the institutions after the death of the young man, who had left the reception center where he had been staying since August 1st together with 200 other migrants. “It is a life broken not by a fatality but by the lack of adequate reception and care for migrants arriving in Italy”, said Camillo Ripamonti, president of Centro Astalli, who calls for the immediate amendment of the security decrees and the reform of the Treaty of Dublin.

Anwar was 20 years old when he died at night, crushed by a car going at full speed, in an attempt to escape from the center that was supposed to host him. This certainly cannot be called a welcome.

Alessandro Puglia

*Asgi: Associazione per gli studi giuridici sull’immigrazione – Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration

Translated by Francesca Cavallo