Coerced to give fingerprints: Mariam’s story

Mariam, 23, from Sudan, interviewed in July 2016

From Egypt, I travelled by boat to Italy with my 4 year old son and 2 year old daughter and about 400 other people. We arrived on 6 June, I don’t know where. At the port, the Red Cross asked whether we needed medical assistance. I am pregnant and during the crossing I was bleeding, so I told them.

We boarded buses and were promptly taken to a centre surrounded by fences, where they asked our names, surnames, date of birth, and nationality. They didn’t ask any more questions, say anything about asylum or give me any documentation. They only asked us to leave our fingerprints “for security reasons”, so I gave them without any problem.

Then at around 9pm we left again on the buses and arrived to another centre early the following morning, at around 6am. My bleeding continued. At the new centre in Vibo Valentia they asked us who wanted to give fingerprints to submit a request for asylum. Some refused. I didn’t want to request asylum in Italy, so they ordered us to go away.

It was raining as I walked towards the train station with my children. It was only 10 minutes away but the children were soaked; they were in unbearable conditions. So I went back to the centre. I was still bleeding at this point and wanted help.

When I arrived there was a policeman in uniform and an interpreter speaking Arabic with a Moroccan accent. They told me that if I didn’t give my fingerprints they would not let us in. So I did it for my children, because it was raining and they were soaked. They asked me again the same questions: name, surname, nationality, age, place of departure. They didn’t ask any more questions.

Then they took a picture of me, asking me to take my veil off, and took my fingerprints: each finger, than the whole hand, on both hands. They also asked the children’s details, though they didn’t take their photos or fingerprints. They gave us a bracelet with our details written on it, with which we were able to get out of the centre.

Only at that point they called an ambulance to take me to the hospital. I waited there the whole day, from 8am to midnight. I tried to speak with several doctors but there was no interpreter so no one could understand me and no one visited me. I was worried for my children, who had remained in the centre.

Luckily someone passed by who spoke Arabic and helped me to explain. So they sent a car from the centre to pick me up. The following day I went back to the hospital, this time accompanied by an interpreter and was given medicine. They explained that the discharges were because I had travelled in a tight position and that the baby was alive only because I reported the problem promptly.

Note: Amnesty International has transcribed these verbal testimonies gathered in Italy.