Italian pro-migration MP Aboubakar Soumahoro, who had been heralded as a potential leader of Italy’s leftist coalition, has resigned in disgrace from his parliamentary group, the Alliance of the Greens and the Left (Alleanza Verdi Sinistra), due to ongoing investigations against his wife and mother-in-law for tax fraud and mistreatment of migrants.
Despite initial claims from Soumahoro that he knew nothing of what was going on in at the migrant centers, witnesses have come forward to be interviewed on the Italian television program “Non è l’arena,” which ran a broadcast Sunday evening covering the scandal.
The news report indicates that the situation at the centers was “serious,” with one worker there saying,
“Sometimes there was no hot water, the radiators didn’t work, and there was no gas.” He also added that Soumahoro “knew very well everything that was happening, he knows all about the situation of each house.”
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“The suspicion was confirmed that the reported crimes did not occur; they were faked and there was no threat,” the Aachen police reported
The investigations are targeting Soumahoro’s wife and mother-in-law, who allegedly failed to pay employees, evaded taxes, offered irregular contracts, and allowed migrants to live in precarious conditions in publicly funded facilities.
The situation was so bad at the facilities that the children did not even have milk for their breakfast, according to one employee.
Another employee said, “I had no employment contract, no salary. They only paid me twice in two years.”
Soumahoro’s wife, who is partly responsible for running the cooperatives, is known for posting their extravagant lifestyles to social media, with critics now claiming that they funded those lifestyles by defrauding Italian taxpayers and shortchanging migrants in their care. Posts mocking her social media presence have already spread on Italian Twitter accounts.
The scandal is seen as highly embarrassing to Italy’s left. Soumahoro, a trade unionist who was born in the Ivory Coast of Africa, was held up as a sign of the strength of Italy’s increasing diversity after he came to office as the country’s only Black MP. The left also heaped praise on the politician due to his position championing more immigration to the country.
Now, he is being ushered out the exit as quickly as possible.
“With the utmost freedom, Aboubakar Soumahoro has informed us of his decision to withdraw from the Alleanza Verdi Sinistra parliamentary group,” announced Angelo Bonelli, Nicola Fratoianni, and Luana Zanella, representatives of Green Europe — The Greens (Europa Verde) and Italian Left (Sinistra Italiana).
“We respect this choice […] even if it is not required,” they added. Bonelli said he was “upset” by the announcement.
The investigation began after 30 former residents of the Karibu and Consorzio Aid cooperatives, including minors, made complaints to the press. Both aid cooperatives describe themselves as providing “reception and integration services for asylum seekers, political refugees, and immigrants within the framework of the Sprar (System for the Protection of Asylum Seekers and Refugees) generalized reception project.”
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The former residents complained of “unacceptable living conditions” due to poor hygiene. They also said they had a lack of clothing, electricity, food, and water. They also never received a small amount of pocket money promised, some €10 per day.
In their defense, Karibu and Consorzio Aid said they were waiting on payments from the local authorities, which is why certain services and financial aid were not disbursed.
This claim, however, is already being disupted. Federico Carnevale, mayor of Monte San Biagio, where one of the reception centers is located, said there were no missing payments, according to Italian newspaper Il Giornale.
In the other city where a center is located, Nancy Piccaro, former mayor of Roccagorga, was also clear that funds were paid on time.
“Absolutely not,” she said regarding alleged missing payments. “It has been claimed that Roccagorga owes money to Karibu (migrant center). This is absolutely not the case because the municipality owes nothing to Karibu.”
While this is still a developing news story, Italian public opinion has reacted sharply to the details of the scandal, which may have forced Soumahoro’s quick resignation.
Soumahoro defended himself with a post to Facebook, saying, “My life has been characterized by the struggle against all forms of exploitation. You want me dead. I have always fought.”
Soumahoro is known for putting on grandiose displays in support of migrants and the poor. For example, he showed up on the first day of work earlier this year in the Chamber of Deputies with muddy boots, which he said was “a symbol of the sufferings and hopes of the real country that enters the chamber with me to legislate — in memory of those who died on the job, those who are discriminated against, and those who are hungry.”