Eritrean migrant dies in Italy hospital escape bid

An Eritrean man who survived a perilous journey across the Mediterranean by boat to Italy has died after falling from a hospital window in a night-time escape bid, Italian media reported on Saturday.

Eritrean migrant dies in Italy hospital escape bid
The 24-year-old from Eritrea was rescued from his rickety vessel by the Italian coastguard earlier in December. Photo: Marcello Paternostro/AFP

The 24-year-old, who was rescued from his rickety vessel by the Italian coastguard earlier in December and brought to the island of Sardinia, was being treated for scabies in the infectious diseases ward of a hospital in Cagliari.

In the early hours of Saturday he knotted his sheets together and tried to climb down the side of the building from his third-floor room, before falling and hitting his head, dying on the spot.

It was not clear why the man was determined to leave undetected. Hospital staff insisted his room was not locked and his treatment was almost complete, after which he would have been free to go, the reports said.

Eritrean migrants picked up from boats and brought to Italy face relocation along with Syrians and Iraqis to other European countries as part of a controversial programme to share the refugee burden, which has proven unpopular with people hoping to join family members elsewhere.

Nearly 85 percent of new arrivals come from the world's top 10 refugee-producing countries, according to the UN's refugee agency. More than 3,620 people have died trying to make the journey by sea from north Africa in 2015.


Theft of sand from Sardinia’s beaches on the rise again – despite fines of up to €3,000

With the return of mass tourism this summer came a new increase in the theft of sand, pebbles and shells from Sardinia’s protected beaches, environmental campaigners say.

Theft of sand from Sardinia’s beaches on the rise again - despite fines of up to €3,000
A beach in Sardinia's Porto San Paolo. Photo: Daniel Slim/AFP

A campaign group called ‘Sardegna rubata e depredata’ (Sardinia robbed and plundered) estimated that at least six tonnes of sand had been taken from the island’s beaches this year alone, mostly by foreign visitors.

In 2017, it became illegal to remove sand, shells and pebbles from Sardinia’s beaches as they were classed as protected resources. People breaking these rules face fines of between €500 and €3,000 – and anyone caught attempting to take larger quantities risks a prison term.

But it seems that many visitors haven’t got the message, as sand theft – and the number of fines being issued to those caught stealing – has risen again this summer with the return of international tourists.

READ ALSO: What is Italy doing to protect its coastline?

In July alone, customs officers at Sardinia’s Alghero airport seized 1.4 kilograms of sand from the island’s beaches during systematic bag searches, the Ansa news agency reported on Tuesday.

Items found in the possession of departing passengers at the airport last month reportedly included numerous plastic bottles filled with sand, 743 sea pebbles, 43 shells and a rock weighing 1.2 kg. 

All passengers caught with the illegal souvenirs were fined, police said.

Campaigners said most culprits are foreign tourists who usually “don’t really have a motive”. 

“Perhaps to arouse the envy of friends and relatives, or to recreate the feeling of the holiday in their living rooms, or even to decorate a home aquarium,” the group wrote on its Facebook page.

“Some do it probably because there is such a sense of discomfort in having to leave the island. They try in a desperate way to take it with them, in their hands, instead of keeping the memories in the heart,” the group said.

In rarer cases, the motive for the theft appears to be profit – with reports in Italian media that bags of precious pink sand from Sardinia’s protected beaches are being sold online to “collectors”.

A couple of French tourists last year were caught trying to board a ferry with 40kg of sand in 14 large plastic bottles in the boot of their car.