Italy’s simmering anti-immigrant sentiment has been stoked by the murder of an elderly couple in their home in Sicily, allegedly by an African asylum seeker.
Mamadou Kamara, an 18-year-old from the Ivory Coast, allegedly slit the throat of Vincenzo Solano, 68, and then attacked his Spanish-born wife, Mercedes Ibanez, 70.
Ms Ibanez fell to her death from a second-floor balcony, during a robbery that turned violent.
Mr Kamara is one of thousands of migrants and refugees living at a vast reception centre at nearby Mineo, in south-eastern Sicily.
They are accommodated there after arriving by boat from Libya, and wait sometimes for months to have their asylum applications assessed.
The migrants are allowed to come and go freely from the facility, a former US military base where prostitution, links with organised crime and the trade in illicit goods is said to be rife.
Mr Kamara, who was rescued in the Mediterranean on June 8 and brought with other migrants to the port of Catania in Sicily, allegedly broke into the pensioners’ flat in the village of Palagonia, six miles away, and slit the throat of Mr Solano.
The elderly man’s wife was found dead in the courtyard of their three-storey apartment block. Investigators believe she may have fallen over the balcony in panic after trying to flee the attacker.
Mr Kamara was arrested after police searched his bag on Sunday as he returned to the migrant centre.
Inside they found a mobile telephone, a laptop computer, a video camera and a pair of trousers, allegedly belonging to Mr Solano, that were covered in blood.
The young African man claimed to have “found” the items, but police arrested him and are expected to charge him with two counts of murder.
Sebastian Maccarrone, the director of the Mineo migrant centre, said: “If it was him, it is a tragedy within a tragedy – for the people killed, and for integration. We are all shocked… For each small step we have taken forward in terms of integration, this has put us 10 steps backwards.”
More than 100,000 refugees have arrived by boat in Italy this year, making the crossing from Libya in overcrowded rubber dinghies and leaky fishing boats. Last year, a record 170,000 arrived on Italian shores.
“Italians fear for their lives inside their own homes,” said Gianluca Buonanno, an MEP with the Northern League, a staunchly anti-immigrant party of the Right.
“This is Renzi’s national security strategy. What kind of country are we living in?”
Giorgia Meloni, another centre-Right politician and a close ally of Silvio Berlusconi, the former prime minister, said: “The instigator of the murder of these two innocents is the Italian state, which is responsible for having kept open a facility … which we said should be closed down.”
“The murdered couple had returned from living in Germany to enjoy their retirement in Sicily,” a relative told La Stampa newspaper. “They shouldn’t have died like this, slaughtered like goats.” – London Daily Telegraph