[ 10. Jan 2009 ]

How a child dies in Venice

11-year-old Afghan boy dies to avoid controls by the border police


He was fifteen years old. No, he was twelve. Maybe, in reality, he was only eleven. As the day progressed, his age changed several times, turning increasingly younger. In any case, he was a boy. He was found dead in Via Orlanda in Mestre, Venice, run over by the lorry under which he had hidden to escape the checks by the border police. Why, one would wonder, does an Afghan minor, a figure that is well protected by international conventions, by the ECHR, and even by the Bossi-Fini law [on immigration], risk his life in such a way in order to avoid being intercepted by the border police?

Because, by now, all the migrants, and also those Italians who want to know the truth about things, know: in the ports on the Adriatic [coast], anyone is sent back, in a summary way. Regardless of their age, status or their life story involving wars and persecutions. The boy who died on the past 22 June, also under a lorry, had been rejected five days earlier. He was an Iraqi Kurd, he could have sought asylum, but he did not find any interpreter, mediator or lawyer who could listen to his story and protect his rights. He did not meet the CIR (Consiglio Italiano per i Rifugiati, Italian Council for Refugees), which is paid by the Ministry precisely to do this, and has recently complained publicly about the difficulty of working in a place in which it appears that access is forbidden even to the people who need to be given information and possibly defended.

The nameless boy who died last night in Marghera came from Greece, a country where human rights are in serious jeopardy for everyone, as the latest episodes that have swept across the Hellenic republic show, but especially for migrants and asylum seekers. UNHCR and Amnesty have been urging the suspension of returns to Greece for some time, but it seems as though this practice continues constantly, on a daily basis, with all the violence and deaths that it entails.

On Saturday 29 November a citizens' assembly in Venice discussed these matters. The data presented is clear and authoritative, and its acts have been published on this website. What emerges from them is a border management system that is arbitrary and only tailored towards security concerns. A child attempted to escape this system to be free. He did not want to be returned, and died when he had almost succeeded. His hands did not manage to hold on, and it is not difficult to imagine that instant in which everything ended. The huge responsibilities of this tragedy begin in Afghanistan, passing through Turkey and Greece, but they end in the port of Venice.

Source :: Unofficial Statewatch Translation - This article by Alessandra Sciurba first appeared on 11 December 2008 on the website of the MeltingPot Project, "Come muore un bambino a Venezia" (original, in Italian), available at: