A lawyer and human rights activist, Lucky Aghedo, has expressed worry over the alleged detention without trial of some Nigerian migrants in Italy.
In a statement on Saturday, Mr Aghedo said some Nigerians and other African migrants had been in custody in Italy for years, while others had been serving long sentences.
“According to a local Italian newspaper, Gazzetta di Reggio, report on April 27, 2022, no fewer than 36 Nigerians of Niger Delta origin, were arrested on grounds of different allegations ranging from credit card fraud to cultism, termed mafia in Italy,” he said.
He added, “Since this widely publicised mass and coordinated arrest, as others had previously been detained, the suspects have not been tried.”
He lamented that the inmates lacked understanding of the language and resources for legal aid, adding that while some elements of criminal involvement could not be denied for some detainees, others were likely innocent.
“These innocent parties have regular and permanent jobs, and they may have been roped in due to certain association; hence, these cases should be judged on individual merits rather than place all suspects and detainees under one straight jacket,” he argued.
The rights activist added that detaining those who might be complicit for a prolonged period without trial breached fundamental human rights.
He urged that in line with the European Convention on Human Rights, Article 5, Section 1 C and 3, the suspects should be tried speedily or released if nothing was incriminating to warrant their detention.
According to Mr Aghedo, some Nigerian migrants had also been alleged to be carrying out cultism in Italy, flashing machetes and other dangerous weapons of intimidation.
Mr Aghedo alleged that the system allowed some migrants residence permits, mostly through the asylum process, but failed to create a system integration process, as obtainable in some other countries.
The lawyer said the survivors ought to have received counselling or therapy to heal their damaged psychology, saying failure to offer them this was “an issue that has exacerbated most of the anti-social behaviours.
“Furthermore, Africans love merriment. These young stars are excited to make it to Europe alive, seeing it as a second chance in life.
“Then, they gluttonously enjoy every vice offering such as parties and drugs. They will do all this in excess, fuelled by their youthful exuberance.
“Also, being all predominantly from the same region, along with sharing the same culture and experiences, it could be argued that they congregate in a place where they enjoy things in common: be it food, music and many others.
“Hence, it will be a miscarriage of justice to assume that whenever these individuals congregate in a place, it must be for cultism,” he said.
The lawyer said there should be efforts to separate the culprits from the innocent.
He added that the terrible experiences of the migrants, some of whom crossed the Mediterranean on the same boat or were rescued from the same boat, engendered camaraderie in them.
According to him, Italy had been very hospitable to migrants over the years, but the overwhelming influx of migrants eroded the kindness.
Mr Aghedo called on human rights organisations to work with the Italian government to solve the problem to ensure justice and equity.