Migrants and asylum seekers at a refugee center in Cona near Venice, Italy set fires inside the facility and blocked the gates, forcing social workers to barricade themselves inside their offices, after a protest broke out over living conditions following the death of a young woman, Reuters reported.
A 25-year-old woman, later identified as Sandrine Bakayoko from the Ivory Coast, was found unconscious in the bathroom and was believed to have died because of an alleged delay in medical assistance. The town mayor, however, told La Repubblica TV that she had of natural causes on Monday afternoon. Her fellow migrants reacted angrily, and started rioting, cutting off the electricity supply to the centre, setting fires and barring the exit, leaving 25 staff members barricaded inside, local media said.
Protest in the refugee camp of Cona after the death of an Ivorian woman
Shortly after, riot police were called to the scene, and Italian security forces later quelled the unrest according to RT. The stand-off ended in the early hours of Tuesday after law enforcement convinced the protesters to open the gates and allow the staff to leave, local police chief Angelo Sanna told la Nuova di Venezia e Mestre newspaper. None of the camp workers were injured.
Mayor Alberto Panfilio said calm had been restored at the center, where up to 1,500 people have been placed in a facility originally meant for 15 migrants. Many were housed in tents. Police had persuaded the protesters to open the gates shortly after midnight on Monday, let the staff leave, and re-connect electricity, local police chief Angelo Sanna told la Nuova di Venezia e Mestre newspaper.
Early reports said the protest had been caused by a delay between the young woman being taken ill and an ambulance arriving to treat her. The protesters said the ambulance arrived some eight hours after being called and that Bakayoko died after the medics arrived, according to Ruptly agency. Yet, local police and health and social care services claimed it took the ambulance some 20 minutes to arrive to the center after the emergency call.
“The hour and place of death are still to be determined,” Sanna told Ruptly, adding that the deceased woman’s “countrymen were obviously worried about the cause of her death and the speed of the first aid delivery, and this has induced them to start a protest.” Prior to the incident, the camp’s administration had reportedly been investigated over allegations of fraud and maltreatment, according to Il Sole-24 Ore radio.
“This death is not directly linked to the high concentration (of people) but I hope it can be useful to change a situation that is no longer sustainable,” Mayor Panfilio said.
The mayor told local media that the centre had opened in 2015. Numbers had ballooned dramatically last year. The Cona facility, which was initially intended to house just 15 people, is hosting up to 1,500 migrants, many of whom are living in tents. The centre is one of many temporary migrant reception centres in Italy that are housing more than 136,000 people. In the past three years, roughly half a million migrants have arrived in Italy by boat.
The centre is one of many temporary migrant reception centres in Italy that are housing more than 136,000 people. In the past three years, roughly half a million migrants have arrived in Italy by boat.
Source: zero hedge