One of the European countries that receives high numbers of asylum seekers is Italy. It is now common for unscrupulous boat owners to throw their human cargo overboard with horrific consequences.
Just two weeks ago bodies washed ashore near the town of Gela in Sicily. For those who survive, their treatment in Italian detention centres is also shocking.
The following is an account by Vittorio Agneletto, a left wing MEP, who visited a detention centre recently in Milan.
His name is Lemrahi Rabie. He is 22 years old and he arrived in Italy from Morocco with his whole family. He has been working here for a while and he is awaiting his residence permit.
At 7am the police come into his cell and brusquely tell him that they have come to take him to the airport and deport him to Morocco.
All his hopes disappear, even that of embracing his family. Lemrahi doesn’t think twice. With a razor blade he cuts himself on his arms and chest and then swallows it.
He faints and is helped by his cellmates. He is taken to the clinic where his wounds are patched up.
But in the incident book there is no trace of the razor blade he swallowed.
Lemrahi has difficulty speaking. He tells his cellmate he has swallowed a razor blade. His cellmate tells a plain-clothed policeman about it, who reassures him that Lemrahi will be taken to a hospital immediately.
This doesn’t happen. Lemrahi is taken immediately to Milan airport and sedated. A support group rushes to the airport and demands that the Alitalia flight doesn’t take off with somebody in a precarious medical condition.
If he were to have an internal haemorrhage during the flight he would die. The airline consults with the police and following the pressure they apply the captain decides to take off anyway.
Luckily Lemrahi arrives in Morocco alive. We try to contact him but he is immediately arrested by the Moroccan police who were probably warned by their Italian counterparts.
They want to avoid the possibility of an X-ray that would reveal what the Italian authorities were trying to deny.
They refuse medical assistance for someone facing a serious risk of death.
This is against all international treaties.
A question—why did Alitalia transport someone against his will, handcuffed and suffering physical pain?
SG is 30 years old and a Roma Gypsy. He says he lost his left hand in a accident on a building site near Milan. He’s waiting for an operation for a prosthetic hand.
He has also engaged a lawyer to prosecute his employer. He lives in Milan with his wife and two children and he risks expulsion in a few days.
How can a civilised nation, a signatory to international conventions on workplace protection, expel somebody awaiting their day in court?
SG has produced wealth in Italy but he has been thrown away like a piece of rubbish.
MT says that he is married with an Italian wife. He has a nine year old daughter. He is separated but he has a residence permit until 2012. He was picked up at home, taken to the detention centre and is now awaiting expulsion.
But he doesn’t know why. He asks, “Could it be because I left my family?”
How can somebody be expelled when they have a normal residence permit?
E is a Peruvian woman with Aids, currently undergoing anti-retroviral treatment. She risks being expelled to Peru in a few days where she has no chance of continuing her treatment.
Italian law allows urgent treatment for serious illnesses for both Italians and immigrants. Expulsion to Peru is the same as a death sentence.
Initials have been used in some cases to protect Italy’s “guests” from unpleasant consequences