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African migrants’ riot aboard Italian ferry

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Some 63 North African migrants caused a major uproar in the middle of the night on an Italian ferry Monday, fighting, screaming, stealing, vandalizing, beating other passengers and pulling people out of their bunks.
The migrants, 29 of whom had been denied asylum by the Italian government and were slated for deportation, boarded the ferry in the port town of Cagliari (Sardinia) and began drinking until the bar closed. At this point they started protesting loudly, demanding more alcohol. Soon they “turned the voyage into a nightmare for the other 170 passengers,” according to Italian media reports.

The ship Janas had left Cagliari on Monday night with a large group of North Africans, most of whom were from Algeria. At sea in the middle of the night, the migrants began assaulting other passengers, creating a melee on the ship.

Despite efforts by the crew to restore calm, the situation rapidly degenerated and for hours the ship was at the mercy of the sixty rioters. Calm only returned on board at dawn, just before the ship moored, when the migrants realized that police patrols had been deployed on the Naples harbor docks and were waiting for them.

Upon the ferry’s arrival in Naples, local police officers boarded the ship and spent the day Tuesday identifying the foreigners who started the brawl and reconstructing the episode as faithfully as possible. One by one, police questioned every passenger as well as reviewing the surveillance footage from the video cameras on board the ship.

The episode highlights the exasperation experienced by law enforcement officials who believe the situation has gotten completely out of control.
“Little good is coming from these daily arrivals from North Africa,” said Luca Agati, head of the local police union (SAP) in Cagliari. “These young people think they can do whatever they please once they have been denied asylum.”

The deportation certificate is becoming “a permission slip that guarantees them the freedom to commit crimes in Italy,” he added.
“What has to happen for people to understand that a definitive solution must be found for the issue of deportations?” he said.


Passengers told Italian media that the unrest started when the ferry's bar closed and the migrants wanted to keep drinking. Accounts vary, but some passengers claimed that they had been harrassed and targeted for theft. The chaotic situation continued for hours, only coming to a close when the ferry pulled alongside its berth in Naples, according to La Stampa and reported The Maritime Executive (Italy).

The CEO of Tirrenia, Massimo Mura, thanked the Janas' crew for managing the "delicate situation . . . to ensure the safety of all passengers." He added that there was no damage to the vessel and no injuries to passengers or crew.

The authorities performed a thorough sweep of the ship to ensure that there were no migrants attempting to evade identification. Italian police intend to administer drug and alcohol tests to suspected participants, and they plan to bring formal charges soon.

Luca Agati, the secretary of the policemen's union for Cagliari, suggested that the unrest was part of a pattern of disturbances caused by young migrants who have recently received deportation papers. He claimed that once they have formally been rejected for EU residency, some migrants feel like they have the freedom to commit crimes before their deportation.

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Tags: italy, migrants, Riot
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