Venice will pay for funeral of African refugee who drowned while being heckled with racist abuse

Tourists shout at 22-year-old Gambian man: 'Go on, go back home,' as he struggles in the Grand Canal

Lucy Pasha-Robinson@lucypasha
Monday 30 January 2017 19:09
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African refugee drowns in Venice as tourists laugh and film on phones

The city of Venice will pay for the funeral of a migrant who drowned in the city’s Grand Canal, after reports emerged he was heckled with racist slurs by tourists and onlookers in the moments before his death.

Police have opened a formal investigation into the death after footage was shared of Pateh Sabally, who reportedly jumped from a bridge in a suspected suicide, being told: “Go on, go back home”, and “let him die”, as he struggled in the waterway.

The 22-year-old Gambian man was honoured at a memorial conducted by a local priest and costs of his funeral will be covered by city authorities, according to the Local Italy.

The money will come from Venice mayor Luigi Brugnaro's personal cost of living allowance in "a gesture of respect from Venice towards Pateh Sabally and his shattered dreams," he said.

He added: "The death of this young man has saddened all of us, and we feel pity towards those who, faced with the adversities of life, no longer find the strength to react to desperation," added Mr Brugnaro.

“We can't continue to nurture the hopes of half the world of coming to Italy. Everyone needs to realize it is impossible for our country to continue managing such a large-scale phenomenon in the way it has done so far.

"We need to understand the future implications of this; above all the tragedies and suffering of [migrants and refugees].”

Mr Sabally reportedly arrived in Sicily by boat from Gambia, but his application for asylum was denied.

At least three life rings were thrown into the water near him, but he did not appear to reach for them, and his body was later found by divers in the canal.

"He is stupid. He wants to die," one person is heard shouting in the video.

“I don’t want to blame anyone but maybe something more could have been done to save him,” said Dino Basso, the local head of the Italian association of lifeguards.

More than 181,000 migrants arrived in Italy by boat in 2016, most of them from sub-Saharan Africa, an increase of almost 18 per cent compared with 2015.

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