Ghanaian migrant Paul and lay missionary Biagio Conte | Photo: ANSA
Ghanaian migrant Paul and lay missionary Biagio Conte | Photo: ANSA

Lay missionary Biagio Conte has gone on a hunger strike in Palermo, Italy, to protest against the planned expulsion of 51-year-old Ghanaian migrant Paul who has been living in Italy for over 10 years.

For the past four days, the missionary and Paul have been sleeping on makeshift beds made out of cardboard boxes in Palermo's Piazzale Anita Garibaldi.
Paul has been living in Palermo since 2010. Paul has been housed by charity Speranza e Carità (Hope and Charity), which was founded in the Sicilian city of Palermo to assist the poor, homeless and the mentally ill. The charity runs seven facilities hosting about 1,000 people. 

Paul was reportedly summed by the police last week to receive an expulsion order. His passport was seized. After his appeal was denied, Paul's attorney is preparing to file a second one but members of the charity fear that Paul will be forced to leave Palermo before it is examined. 

Conte has called for the intervention of Pope Francis, President Sergio Mattarella and Premier Giuseppe Conte to find a solution to let the immigrant stay in Italy. 

Paul's story 

Paul said he travelled to Italy in 2007 with an Alitalia flight and a tourist visa. "I worked in Bologna for an engineering company that subsequently closed. I arrived in Palermo in 2010 because I had friends. I worked here and there but finding a job with social security was very hard. In Ghana, I have my father, two brothers and two sisters, my wife and my five-year-old son."

Missionary Conte said: "Paul is a good man. He helps the sick in hospital, he is a good plumber and he does reparation work for Palermo residents with no money. He acted as the wise man in the cathedral. There are thousands of migrants like him who are at risk of expulsion."

Palermo mayor says 'solution possible' 

The mayor of Palermo, Leoluca Orlando, said it is possible to find a solution and that many members of institutions are trying to do that. 

''Indignation and obedience to the constitution against an unjust legislative system go together with the commitment to do everything possible to guarantee rights and dignity to Paul and the many other Pauls who are victims of inhumane legislation," the mayor said, asking Biagio Conte to suspend his hunger strike.

Orlando is among mayors who have rebelled against the government's migrant-security decree, saying that it unfairly strips some migrants of access to healthcare and other local services and ejects thousands of migrants from the reception system. 

Democratic Party (PD) MPS Carmelo Miceli also expressed solidarity to Biagio Conte and Paul, urging Premier Giuseppe Conte to ''listen to the words of Pope Francis to host migrants and save Paul."

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