Nigerians, Ghanaian shot in Italy speak out

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Kofi Wilson being interviewed by the press on his hospital bed
Kofi Wilson being interviewed by the press on his hospital bed

SIX African immigrants were injured after a gunman opened fire on them on 3 February in the central Italian city of Macerata in a racially-motivated attack. Of the six known victims, three are from Nigeria, including one woman, while the rest are from Mali, Ghana and the Gambia.

A week after the attack, thousands turned out in an anti-fascism demonstration in several Italian cities.

Al Jazeera spoke to three victims of the racially-motivated attack. Excerpts of the interview:

Festus Omagbon, a 32-year-old taxi driver from Nigeria’s Edo State, underwent vascular surgery on his left arm …

“That day, Saturday, I was walking alone to the supermarket when I saw a black car. It just blocked me. I saw the guy after he shot me. He moved fast. I was shouting, there was a lot of blood. I didn’t know him. He was alone inside the car, shooting and driving.

“I came to Italy by sea. Being here, I thought I was safe. This is Europe, everybody wants to come and live a better life. I was surprised. This is what we run from. We run to save our lives.

Africans take part in an anti-fascism demonstration in the central Italian town of Macerata last Saturday to protest the shooting of the six Africans / Photo: screenshot Aljazeera

“In Nigeria, there was a crisis in my community. [Attackers] killed my father. There were fights for land; my father died. I ran away to Libya. I don’t know where my family is now, because there is no communication from them. With the residency permit they gave me, I can’t go home, I have to stay here in Europe.

“I travelled from Nigeria to Libya for one week. We drove day and night with smugglers from Libya. In the Sahara desert, a lot of people died. There was no water, no food, strong sun.

“We went to Gatron in Libya, from Gatron to Sabha, Sabha to Tripoli. Tripoli to Sabratha.

“From there, we wanted to push to the Mediterranean Sea and waited for a rubber boat – we call it a balloon, or “lapalapa”. A German rescue ship ended up bringing us to Italy, to Messina, Sicily.

“A lot of Italian people are nice, but life in Italy is not easy. When you leave the camp, you suffer in the streets. In Italy, I have a residency permit. But where is the work? I can’t get a job in Italy.

“I have been here for a year and six months. I live in a camp. We have luck to come here; many people die, we are the lucky ones.

“If Libya is good, people would settle down in Libya. There is work there, but there is racism. I was a store assistant in Sabha. Sabha is not good at all. There’s no government in Libya, so everybody carries a gun. They control black people.”

The gunman has been named as Luca Traini who had stood as a candidate for the anti-immigrant Northern League

Kofi Wilson, a 20-year-old builder from Accra, Ghana, was shot in the chest …

“At around 11am on Saturday morning, I was with my friend. We heard a gunshot five metres from us.

My friend said: ‘Kofi, it’s a gunshot.’

I said: ‘No, it’s not a gunshot, because we are in Europe. It’s not normal to hear a gunshot like this.’

“In another five minutes’ time, we saw cars coming. That’s when I realised I’d been shot.

“People started to come near me, Italian people were trying to wake me up. At that moment, I didn’t see anything again.

Then, I don’t know; I saw more people, they were running.

Festus Omagbon, one of the six victims
Festus Omagbon, one of the six victims

Kofi Wilson being interviewed by the press on his hospital bed, said he was shot in the leg as he was walking in the street by a man inside the car whose face was hidden.

“People started to come near me, Italian people were trying to wake me up. At that moment, I didn’t see anything again.

“Before coming to Italy, I was in Libya for more than a year. I went to prison in Libya. Living there is hell. I was in Tripoli working as a builder. Now in Italy, I’m looking for work. Sometimes I have work, sometimes I don’t.

“I came from Tripoli to Messina. The journey was very bad. It’s not a small journey, it’s a very, very difficult journey, but you know, if you come to Libya, it’s not easy to go back to Ghana through the desert again. The route is dangerous. They are killing people, they are doing enough things to Black people. I had to face what was in front of me.

“I paid $1,130. It took a day to get from Tripoli to Messina. There were more than 100 people on the boat. A lot of them were injured. Before we were rescued, our boat capsized so a lot of people died in the sea.

“Me, I also fell in the sea, but I survived. When the boat capsized, the rescue wasn’t close. Before the rescue came, a lot of people died.

Now I am seeking asylum. I pray everything will be OK.”

Jennifer Otiotio, a 25-year-old hairdresser from Nigeria’s Delta State, was shot in the chest …

“I was standing in front of the train station when I heard a gunshot. I was with a friend waiting for a bus to come to go to Civitanova.

I have lived in Macerata for seven months. Before that, I was in Nigeria. I came through Libya, by boat.

“If someone wants their hair done, they can call me. I go to their homes. I can’t move my hand now, I am afraid to lose my hand. I pray to God to make my hand good, make me use my hand to work.

“I was shocked after what happened. Italy is a peaceful place. Let there be a big calm. Let Italy go back to the days before. Let there be no trouble.

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