Nigerian Refugee Beaten to Death in Italy and Raises Concern Over Xenophobia

A guest of the centre jumps over the fence of the Cara in Bari, Italy A guest of the centre jumps over the fence of the Cara in Bari, Italy ANSA/LUCA TURI

13 July 2016
Nigerian sought asylum in Italy after fleeing Boko Haram, only to be killed in what appears to be a racially motivated attack.

 Italian police have arrested a man suspected of killing Nigerian refugee, Emmanuel Chidi Namdi, in the small Italian town of Fermo. Namdi and his wife Chinyery Emmanuel arrived in Italy last year after both their parents were killed by Boko Haram. They escaped Nigeria, endured the violence in Libya, and risked their lives on the treacherous waters of the Mediterranean Sea to arrive in Italy to seek refuge. Namdi was beaten into a coma and died in hospital on Wednesday, 6 July.

The attack on the couple took place on Tuesday, 5 July, and was fuelled with racial slurs by two Italian men who began verbally harassing Emmanuel, and prompted her husband to defend her. Emmanuel told police that a man knocked her husband unconscious with a road-sign pole. “The assailant continued to kick and punch him even when he was lying on the ground,” said priest Vinicio Albanesi, who had offered the couple shelter at a housing centre for migrants and asylum seekers.

The attack has raised concern over Italy’s underlying racist and xenophobic views towards migrants and asylum seekers in the country. According to Human Rights Watch, Italians believe that 30 percent of the country’s population is comprised of immigrants, when the actual number is 8 percent. As many as 47 percent of Italians believe that refugees are more responsible for crimes than any other group.

These beliefs arise from the fact that hundreds of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers irregularly arrive on Italian coasts each year. While only a small number of these irregular migrants and asylum seekers actually stay in Italy, most continue their journey and reside in other European countries. And with the increased number of threats from terrorist groups, and recent attacks in other European cities, people in Italy may be reacting out of caution rather than hate.

“More than hate, I see discomfort,” said father Albanesi. “People see folk of different ethnicities begging, selling goods … wandering around town. But the problem is also that the migrants have to wait one or even two years to hear if their asylum requests have been accepted.”


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