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Nigerian asylum seeker has been beaten to death after stepping in to defend his wife from an apparently racist attack by a Right-wing football fan in a small town in northern Italy.
Emmanuel Chidi Nnamdi, 36, and his wife, Chinyere, fled to Italy last year after surviving a violent attack on a church in Nigeria by the Islamic extremist group, Boko Haram, in which members of their family were killed.
The couple was walking through the town of Fermo in the Marche region on Tuesday, when they were reportedly abused by the supporter of a local football club.
The man allegedly called Mr Nnamdi’s 24-year-old wife a “monkey” and when Mr Nnamdi responded to the slur he was beaten and left in an irreversible coma before dying on Wednesday. On Thursday a local man, Amedeo Mancini, 38, was arrested on suspicion of Mr Nnamdi’s murder.
Prime Minister Matteo Renzi condemned the murder on Thursday, tweeting that the government stands with the town in memory of Mr Nnamdi and is “against, hatred, racism and violence”. Angelino Alfano, the interior minister, travelled to Fermo to attend a public security committee meeting in the town.
Immigration has been a divisive issue in Fermo. Local churches which have made a point of welcoming migrants have been the target of four bomb attacks in recent months. While they caused little damage and no injuries, tension remains high in the community of 40,000.
“As mayor of a town that is welcoming and open to integration, I feel I’m living in a nightmare,” the town’s mayor, Paolo Calcinaro, said in a statement.
Mr Nnamdi and his wife arrived in Fermo last September and were being supported by the Catholic Church. The couple had travelled to Italy across the Mediterranean and were trying to put their troubled past behind them.
“Emmanuel was always smiling, full of enthusiasm and with plans for the future,” said local priest, Father Vinicio Albanesi, who knew the couple well, in an interview with the Italian daily, La Repubblica. “He was dreaming of a job, a house and above all a visa to remain in Italy.”
Father Albanesi said Mr Nnamdi’s death rang alarm bells about the extent of xenophobia and racism, and said the community would continue to promote integration in Fermo.
Matteo Salvini, head of the anti-immigrant Northern League, condemned Mr Namdi’s murder on his Facebook page but also said it was a sign that illegal immigration was “out of control” in Italy.
“It is increasingly evident that illegal immigration is out of control, actually [it’s an] organised invasion, and will produce nothing good,” Mr Salvini wrote.
“Controls, limits, respect, rules, definite penalties: are we asking too much?”