Twelve migrants from central Africa stand accused of kidnapping and attempted robbery at a refugee centre in Sicily. The group of 18- to 30-year-olds allegedly stormed the centre’s administrative offices before locking up the manager and a co-worker in order to steal “pocket money” they believed they were owed.
The Local reports the incident took place on Tuesday afternoon at the Vittoria-based System for the Protection of Asylum Seekers and Refugees (SPRAR) centre.
The suspected kidnappers and robbers were attempting to secure their weekly €17.50 allowance which they hadn’t received after it fell due the previous Saturday, 11th July. The reason for non-payment was confusion stemming from the group’s refusal to be transferred to another SPRAR centre in Agrigento, south-west Sicily.
Ragusa24.it reports that at the beginning of July, 34 of the 45 inhabitants housed at the SPRAR centre refused to move to Agrigento. After hours of grueling mediation failed to calm tempers matters deteriorated so much that police had to be called to restore order. Some eventually were persuaded to transfer but others stayed put, making use of the centre’s services and resources to which they no longer technically had the right but which continued to be provided on humanitarian grounds.
The “pocket money” of those who had refused transfers was not handed out because official records showed the migrants had been transferred to the Agrigento centre and were no longer in Vittoria. In response the group of 12 angry migrants led by a 24-year-old from Guinea Bassau burst into the manager’s office to demand their allowance, a demand which was refused.
At this point the group is reported to have attempted to take the “pocket money” forcefully. They allegedly locked the 46-year-old centre manager and his 35-year-old colleague in an office saying they would not be released until payment had been made.
The leader of the group is then said to have taken keys to the manager’s scooter. They also took control of the centre’s phone to ensure nobody called the police. One of the group then tried to snatch the bunch of keys holding the one for the centre’s safe – the place where the money used to cover day-to-day costs is kept – but failed only because of what Ragusa24.it describes as “brave resistance”.
Eventually the centre manager was able to call police from another phone in the office where he was trapped. The migrants were arrested, accused of kidnapping and attempted robbery, formally identified and placed under house arrest under the orders of deputy public prosecutor, Monica Monego.