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.
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.’
Read more: The gang-rape horror that has reignited Italy’s immigration row: Degrading attack on 13-year-old ‘by youths who illegally entered the country as minors’ has poured fuel on the flames of a migrant crisis