Reportage. Moussa Balde was attacked in Ventimiglia and then locked up in the Turin repatriation center because he didn’t have documents. There, he killed himself. ‘He dreamed of another life,’ a friend said.

The tragic death of a Guinean man in Italian custody

The Prosecutor’s Office of Turin has started investigations on the death of a young man detained at the Center for Residence for Repatriation (CPR) deportation center in Turin. Moussa Balde was only 23 years old and born in Guinea: on Sunday, he took his own life, hanging himself with the bedsheets.

Two weeks before, he had been involved in a dramatic video that went viral: on May 9, in Ventimiglia, he was attacked by three men, who beat him with sticks, kicked him and punched him in the middle of the street, in broad daylight, among the screams of people around. “They’re going to kill him like that,” someone says in the background. In the end, he still died.

The three Italians, aged 28, 39 and 44, were identified by the Imperia police and charged with assault. But Balde, although he needed 10 days of medical treatment, ended up detained in the deportation center. Due to the absurd effect of the laws that have transformed men and women into illegals, the victim was victimized twice. Three times, in the end.

Balde arrived in Italy in 2017, after crossing the sea. “He dreamed of another life, of a job. He could not return to his country. He said he would be killed by the same people who had caused him to flee,” Marco, a friend of Moussa’s, told ANSA. “He was a very intelligent young man: he learned Italian in a few months and took the junior high school level exam in Imperia. But he was also troubled and impatient, he found it hard to wait.”

Other people who knew him remember his great sensitivity and his interest in politics. On the page of the Ligurian “La talpa e l’orologio” social center, there is a photo of him smiling, wearing a t-shirt with “Imperia antirazzista” (“Anti-racist Imperia”). The photo was taken in Rome, during a demonstration for the rights of migrants.

“A person entrusted into public care must be taken care of and dealt with in ways that would take into account his specific situation, his possible vulnerability and fragility. This has not happened,” National Guarantor of Prisoners’ Rights Mauro Palma accused on Monday. In the latest report on visits to the CPR, Palma focused on the “Ospedaletto” area of the Turin center, used for medical isolation, where Balde took his own life. It is described as follows: “devoid of common areas, the individual accommodations are characterized by a small outdoor space in front of the room, covered by a mesh net that heightens the sense of segregation.”

“He just wanted to leave, he didn’t accept being locked up in there without having done anything wrong,” says the lawyer Gianluca Vitale, the young man’s attorney. He saw him twice last week, and Balde told him that in Ventimiglia he had been beaten while begging, not after an attempted theft, as the attackers claimed. Apparently, his version of events was dismissed by the Prosecutor’s Office. “I was supposed to see him today. We were worried: a 23-year-old young man who is savagely beaten and then ends up in a CPR can only be in a condition of extreme vulnerability,” said the Guarantor of Prisoners of the City of Turin, Monica Cristina Gallo.

“How was it possible to order not only his deportation to a country that is not at all safe, Guinea, but also for him to be detained in a CPR?” asked Riccardo Magi (+Europa). Nicola Fratoianni (Sinistra italiana) and Maurizio Acerbo (Rifondazione Comunista) called for the closure of all CPRs. Erasmo Palazzotto (Liberi e Uguali) presented a question to Minister Lamorgese aiming to clarify all the points of the story: from his imprisonment to the medical-psychological assistance he was provided.

On Monday, the other 107 migrants locked up in the center organized a protest at the death of their companion. On Tuesday at 6 p.m., the “No CPR Torino” network will lead a protest at the detention facility.

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