Footage of bystanders heckling a Gambian man drowning was condemned online
Authorities in Venice will pay the funeral costs of a migrant who drowned in the Italian city’s Grand Canal, after footage of bystanders laughing and filming his death was widely condemned online.
The man, identified in local media as Pateh Sabally, came to Italy from the Gambia, and died after jumping from a bridge into the water a week ago.
Venice police officers are now investigating his death after disturbing footage showed passersby hurling racist abuse at Sabally during the final moments of his life. Public prosecutors are believed to be examining footage taken from four mobile phones and CCTV in the area.
One of the videos, originally posted online by local newspaper Il Gazzettino, appeared to show tourists along the canal yelling “Go on, go back home,” and “Let him die,” as Sabally was in the water.
Others did attempt to save Sabally’s life, alerting a passing boat which threw two life buoys to him, but as he made no attempt to grab on to them, police are treating his death as an apparent suicide.
After divers retrieved his body from the canal, Venice mayor Luigi Brugnaro said that the city taxpayers would cover all of Sabally’s funeral fees. The mayor revealed that the money would come directly from his own personal cost-of-living allowance, as a “gesture of respect from Venice towards Pateh Sabally and his shattered dreams.”
The 21-year-old Sabally had attempted to claim asylum in Italy after arriving in Sicily by boat from the Gambia, but had his request denied.
“The death of this young man has saddened all of us, and we feel pity towards those who, faced with the adversities of life, no longer find the strength to react to desperation,” Brugnaro said.
Addressing those criticising Italy’s decision to not grant Sabally asylum, Brugnaro added: “We can’t continue to nurture the hopes of half the world of coming to Italy. Everyone needs to realise it is impossible for our country to continue managing such a large-scale phenomenon in the way it has done so far.
“We need to understand the future implications of this, above all the tragedies and suffering of [migrants and refugees].”