This story, if confirmed, is a tragedy within the tragedy of migration to Italy, which sees tens of thousands of migrants and refugees risk death by drowning every year during the perilous sea crossing from north Africa only to face loneliness and destitution once they have arrived.
Modou Sarr, a 37-year-old from Gambia, set fire to a car at a petrol station in San Tammaro in the southern Campania region while the driver was refuelling in order to get himself arrested, according to an Ansa news agency report.
He allegedly told police he was destitute and wanted to spend Christmas in prison where food and lodging would be guaranteed, rather than on the hostile streets of the Camorra-mafia dominated Caserta province.
Of course I know nothing about this man or his story – when and how he arrived in Italy, whether he has legal documents, what he has done and how he has been assisted up till now.
However, my guess is that he has been a victim of the unstable and exploitative labour market in the Caserta area based largely on temporary seasonal work in agriculture and tourism, which many migrants to Italy see as a stepping stone to seeking more stable employment further north.
It may be that he entered the country illegally or came in on a legal migrant quota but subsequently fell foul of Italy’s rigid immigration laws.
Or, as a Gambian national, it could be that he applied for some form of international protection and then slipped through the net.
In any event, chances are that after his scheduled fast-track trial – and maybe Christmas spent in the warm and dry of a prison cell – he will be sent back to where he came from, only to begin his odyssey all over again.