‘I beg you, I beg you, don’t hurt me… Please let me go.’
Those were the words uttered by a helpless 13-year-old girl as she was allegedly dragged into a public bathroom by a group of Egyptian migrants in Catania on the Italian island of Sicily last week.
Her pleas were ignored.
Instead, she claims two of the migrants – both minors – brutally raped her for half an hour while the rest of the gang allegedly restrained her desperate boyfriend and forced him to watch the horror unfold.
All seven of the suspects arrived in Italy as illegal migrants by boat, but were granted temporary residency as Italian law does not permit the expulsion of minors.
News of the heinous attack prompted immediate fury, with Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini calling for the perpetrators to be chemically castrated and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni vowing ‘justice will be done’.
The gang in question has since been shackled after DNA testing confirmed at least one minor had sexually abused the girl, and only because the eldest of the group was so disturbed by the actions of his underlings that he confessed to authorities.
But the horrendous incident has also sparked a fresh row over immigration policy in Italy, which saw a 50% increase in illegal migrant landings last year versus 2022 according to the Interior Ministry.
A group of young men and boys forced the girl and her boyfriend into a public bathroom (pictured)
The rape in the public toilet (pictured) went on for 30 minutes
The girl was raped around 7.30pm on January 30 in Villa Bellini park in Catania, Sicily (pictured)
Italian PM Giorgia Meloni made strengthening immigration policy a cornerstone of her campaign for office in which she called on the EU to launch a ‘naval blockade’ of African shores to turn back migrant boats
The rescue ship Louise Michel from the namesake NGO is moored at the port of Lampedusa, Sicily, after rescuing dozens of migrants
A select few individuals came out in defence of the perpetrators in the wake of the attack.
Catania bishop Luigi Renna was quick to warn against the profiling of migrants for violent crimes, declaring: ‘The crime committed by these young immigrants must not lead us to generalisations, because we know that not all immigrants are violent, just as not all young Italians are violent.’
And immigration workers who knew two of the older teens involved in the incident told Italian media the boys had made efforts to integrate with Italian society and were pursuing work permits at the time of the attack.
‘We had no reason to suspect that they would do anything like that,’ they said.
But several outraged officials and commentators called for a crackdown on illegal immigration, while others pointed fingers at Meloni’s government for its perceived inaction on the issue.
The Prime Minister’s commitment to strengthening immigration policy was a cornerstone of her campaign for office which saw her call for the EU to launch a ‘naval blockade’ of African shores to turn back migrant boats.
But Italy’s shores remain the primary point of arrival for migrants journeying from North Africa.
Almost 156,000 migrants arrived by sea last year alone – 17,000 of which were unaccompanied minors – versus 103,846 in 2022.
Fabio Cantarella, the former environment and urban security councillor of Catania, said: ‘The national government has his responsibilities, above all the Minister of the Interior (Matteo Piantedosi), who should find the courage to return to implementing the policies of his predecessor, Matteo Salvini, against uncontrolled immigration.’
Salvini, the former Interior Minister and now deputy PM, was one of the most outspoken critics of illegal migration in Italy and is currently on trial after he banned an NGO rescue ship from docking in any Italian port in 2019.
Mayor of Catania Enrico Trantino added that he was concerned about ‘security problems’ in the Sicilian city as a result of high migration rates, but said his reports had fallen on deaf ears.
‘There is bitterness and pain – it is as if the entire city was violated with this vulgar, vile and cowardly gesture. I hope that what happened will be severely punished by the judicial authorities,’ he said of the gang rape.
‘In Catania we have a security problem that we have declared several times to the Minister of the Interior.’
Meanwhile, Cultura Identita – a foundation dedicated to the promotion of Italian art and culture, released a statement railing against immigration policy, which prevents minors from being deported.
‘We are faced with yet another bestiality, yet another disgusting act perpetrated once again with shameless ferocity by a group of boys who entered Italy illegally – minors (or self-styled minors) who could not be repatriated.
‘This squalid fact should at least make us reflect on how uncontrolled and illegal immigration causes a predictable and unmanageable emergency on the security front in our country,’ it concluded.
Matteo Salvini (pictured) said the girl was ‘raped by a gang of seven Egyptians’ and that there can ‘only be one cure: chemical castration’, the Sun reports
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak greets Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni at 10 Downing Street on April 27, 2023 in London, England. An Italian plan to hold migrants for processing in detention centres in Albania has drawn comparisons to Britain’s ‘Rwanda plan’
This handout photograph taken on August 5, 2023 by Italian Coastguard (Guardia Costeria) and released on August 6, 2023, shows a rescue operation that took place south of Lampedusa, consisting in rescuing 57 migrants
The girl, 13, was sexually assaulted in the Villa Bellini park in Catania, Sicily, around 7.30pm on January 30 while on a walk with her boyfriend (pictured: the public bathroom where she was raped)
Amid the criticism, Meloni, who heads the right-wing Brothers of Italy party, is pressing on with efforts to manage the sky-high migration rate.
Italy’s commitment to the protection of minors means that any migrants claiming to be under 18 years of age cannot be deported and must be granted temporary residence.
Authorities have typically used psychological evaluations to establish the age of migrants who arrive without documentation, leading Meloni’s government to argue that many adult migrants attempt to pass as underage to benefit from the protections.
But under new legislation signed into effect in September last year, authorities can now use physical examinations, including x-rays of wrist bones, to establish age in the hope adult migrants trying to game the system will be caught out.
This came despite a slew of experts warning the physical tests are not reliable enough to accurately calculate age.
Italy’s parliament also signed off on measures granting authorities the right to hold migrants in detention centres for up to 18 months while asylum requests are processed.
It is possible for migrants to avoid being detained as they wait for the results of their application – for a cool 5000 euro fee.
Meanwhile, a plan to build migrant detention centres in Albania to process asylum claims passed a key milestone when Albania’s constitutional court approved the bilateral agreement.
Under the proposed scheme – which has drawn comparisons with the British government’s Rwanda plan – Meloni has said the centres would be able to house and process in excess of 3,000 migrants per month.
But this would still leave 120,000 migrants free to flood Italian shores each year, based on 2023 arrival figures.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni (R) and the Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama (L) pose for a photo at the Chigi Palace in Rome, Italy on November 6, 2023
Handout image obtained by Reuters, October 12, 2023 shows a Medicins Sans Frontiers (MSF) rescue boat near a rubber boat carrying migrants from the Middle East and Africa, in the Mediterranean Sea, June 24, 2023
The Ponte Galeria detention centre for migrants is seen near Rome, Italy
Migrants sleep on the deck of the Geo Barents migrant rescue ship, operated by Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), as it makes its way to Italy after the rescue of 61 migrants on a wooden boat in international waters off the coast of Libya in the central Mediterranean Sea, September 29, 2023
As the row over illegal immigration continues, details of the horrible crime continue to emerge in Italian press.
The 13-year-old victim said she was walking in the park with her boyfriend when the group of seven descended on them and seized them both.
‘And they took us to the bathrooms of the villa. It was a nightmare, there was no one there at that time,’ the girl told La Repubblica.
She said she was trying to free herself, as was her boyfriend, but they couldn’t overpower the seven teenagers.
Two of them allegedly raped her while the others watched. She said: ‘And they forced my boyfriend to watch too.’
‘He was screaming, he was desperate. I said: “I beg you, I beg you, don’t hurt me, let me go.’
The rape went on for 30 minutes at which point the couple were left to run away. They immediately alerted the Carabinieri, who managed to catch the group within 24 hours after one of the older boys who allegedly held back the boyfriend told immigration workers what had happened.
The victim has identified the two underage alleged perpetrators of the rape, police said, while her boyfriend identified the five others who held him back and forced him to witness the brutal assault.
DNA evidence successfully linked one of three minors in the group to the rape, prosecutors confirmed.
Six of the seven suspects are being held in custody pending further investigation.
The remaining adult suspect was granted house arrest for complying with the police investigation.