Salif, a 31-year-old migrant from West Africa arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa in the beginning of April. From there he was transferred to Sicily where he says he and nine other migrants have been left to live on the streets. This is his story.
“My name is
Salif*, I’m 31 years old and come from West Africa. I arrived in Lampedusa at
the beginning of April after crossing the Mediterranean from Tunisia.
I spent almost a month confined in a center on the Italian island before I was transferred to Sicily in the beginning of May with about 100 other people.
Ordered to leave
We left the Italian Coast Guard vessel in small groups. There were so many of us that it took at least two hours for everyone to get off the boat.
When my turn finally came – I was one of the last to leave – officers made me and nine other migrants, including four from sub-Saharan Africa, sign a document in Italian. We didn’t know what was written on it, because we don’t understand the language and there was no interpreter there to help us.
The document we signed required us to leave Italy within seven days.
The 10 people who were forced to sign the document had not applied for asylum while in Lampedusa. We were too stressed, we had just arrived and we were afraid of making mistakes. We thought we could apply for asylum in Sicily.
Those who had applied for asylum in Lampedusa were accommodated in a center, but we weren’t allowed to go there.
‘We hide for fear of being arrested’
And so we stayed together among Africans. There is also a woman with us.
Since then, we sleep in the street, without mattresses or blankets. To eat, we beg discreetly. We hide for fear of being arrested.
It is very complicated, especially at the moment with the health crisis. We have nothing to protect us from the coronavirus. We buy water canisters to wash our hands but that's all we can do. We are afraid but we have no choice.
On top of that, the coronavirus has led to the border being closed, so we can’t leave Sicily even though we have been given only seven days to do so. But where can we go? We can't even go to another city because you need an authorization for that.
Is this even normal when the majority of us can actually claim asylum? Where are our human rights?"
*The name has been changed to protect the person’s identity. He did not wish to disclose his country of origin.