Human Rights Watch visited the Rosarno region from January 20 through 22, interviewing nine African migrants, as well as local authorities, the police, and civil society representatives. Key extracts from our interviews with the victims follow:
Saibou Sabitiou is a 37-year-old asylum-seeker from Togo. He was the victim of the first shooting on January 7.
I was in Rosarno with a friend to buy our things to make African food. Then we walked back. We were near where we sleep, the abandoned factory, when I see a vehicle come out of a parking lot and come toward me. I received a call on my phone and then the shot, pah! I see two men in the car. I didn't see their faces because I didn't have the mind for it. It was the man in the passenger seat who shot me. It hit me, I see the blood. Some friends came to help and called the ambulance. We all saw the car, but we didn't take the number. It was a big blue jeep, a Volkswagen. There was just one shot; it got me here [in the lower abdomen]. It feels like there's still something there.
The police asked me if I was pissing in the street when it happened. I told them I am a Muslim; I use water to clean myself. This is not a question to ask me. Is it Italian law that if you see someone pissing in the street you take a gun and shoot them? I was just walking, talking on the street...The police are doing their work, but I don't know if they will find the men. I used to cry, not because of the police, but because my mind had to remember what happened.
Jacouba Camara, a 25-year-old from Guinea, was the victim of a drive-by shooting about 2 p.m. on January 7 as he was walking down the road after visiting with friends. He was hit once, on his left side, with a pellet shot. A man who was with Camara at the time of the attack was not hurt.
It was a big black car, with two people in it. They came up from behind me and shot at me. I got back to the house and my friends called the carabinieri. I didn't understand what they said. Then my friends called an ambulance.
Godwin Onyebuchi, a 34-year-old Nigerian, was attacked and beaten with sticks in the early evening of January 8. He suffered cuts to his head requiring stitches and deep abrasions on his right arm. His left arm was broken in several places. The arm was improperly placed in a cast, and when Human Rights Watch spoke to him, he was awaiting an operation to reset the bone.
[T]wo cars came from behind and parked up ahead. Seven boys got out. They were smoking, and I greeted them when I walked past. I looked back and saw they had sticks. Then all seven came and started hitting me. I fell; they hit me on the head. I don't know how long they beat me. They dragged me a ways, to the main road, near a house. I cried ‘help, help,' and a woman opened the door, looked at me, and then shut the door. I fainted.
When I woke up, I crept to the orange farm and stayed there, with blood everywhere, until around 3 a.m. I walked toward the "fabbrica" [an abandoned building where he and other migrants lived], and there was a police checkpoint on the way. The police made me sit and they called an ambulance. At first I couldn't talk very much; blood was coming out of my mouth. But I told them where the attack happened, but they didn't go there.
Moussa Boussim, a 35-year-old from Burkina Faso, was attacked near the train station in Rosarno around 1 p.m. on January 8. He suffered internal injuries and has been operated on twice since the attack. Human Rights Watch spoke with him in Polistena hospital when he was awaiting the second operation.
There were 10 men or so, and maybe five others watching. They didn't say anything; they didn't ask me anything; they just starting hitting me. I saw their faces. They hit my head, my stomach, my back. A woman opened her door, but she saw and she panicked; she shut the door. I was crying, ‘tooo, toooo, toooo,' like that. There were big apartment buildings nearby with lots of windows, but nobody helped me. I don't know how I got to the hospital.
James Amankona, a 39-year-old from Ghana, was attacked by a mob on January 8 as he was coming home from work, around 3 p.m.
I saw 50 or so Italians. They called to me; but I ran and they chased me. I will never forget when I saw the crowd coming. I jumped on a fence to try to escape, but they grabbed me and pulled me down. They started beating me with the sticks and iron bars. I fainted. When I woke up, blood was streaming down my nose. I went to an orange farm. I could hear people shooting and talking, but I couldn't understand what they were saying. I was too scared and I stayed there until for a long time, until it was dark. Then I stopped some Carabinieri in the road and they called an ambulance. They already knew what had happened; they didn't ask any questions. They [the mob] broke my arm, it had to be operated on. They beat me so much on my head. They checked it in the hospital with a machine and it's ok, but sometimes it hurts a lot.
Ben Gyan, 31-year-old asylum-seeker from Ghana, was attacked in the middle of Rosarno on the morning of January 8.
I left the house to buy something at the store. I met a group of about 15 Italians. One boy grabbed me, saying, ‘Where you come from?' Then they started beating with sticks. Five or six of them picked me up and threw me down. They broke my teeth and did this to my face. Then they ran away. It's not a busy street, there was nobody around, but there are apartment buildings on either side of the street. A woman came out and called an ambulance. The police came to the hospital and I told them I couldn't recognize the boys who did this to me. Anyway I can't go back to Rosarno so I won't see them. I don't know if the police are investigating. I'm not sure the police can find the boys, but if they do, I'm happy.
Agry Kwame, 26-year-old from Ghana, was attacked on the streets of Rosarno on the afternoon of January 8 by a group of men. He spent a week in hospital recovering from his injuries.
Four boys on motorcycle came and attacked me on the street, and more and more people came. I saw eight people. They said, ‘Where are you going,' at beginning, but then didn't say anything. All of them beat me. They beat me with sticks on my side, on my head, everywhere. There were other people around, watching but not helping me, not calling an ambulance. I saw faces in the windows of apartments, watching. I ran, but not in town for other boys to beat me. I ran for the bush and stayed there until it was dark. Then I went back to my house slowly, slowly, slowly.