Dienstag, 24. April 2012

New season of detentions at Lampedusa

On the 2nd April, 48 migrants were rescued 60 miles off the Lampedusan coast. The boat they were travelling on had departed from Lybia. Ten of them (4 Eritreans and 6 Somalians) died during the crossing. The Public Prosecutions Office in Agrigento has opened an inquiry to try and find out what happened from those who survived. For almost three weeks, the 24 Somalians (20 men and 4 women, one of whom is pregnant) are still on the island of Lampedusa. They are staying in a tourist residence in Cala Creta, which is being used by the Prefecture of Agrigento as a "temporary reception centre" for the first arrivals of the season.

There is no staff present at the site. There is just a cleaner and a member of the Praesidium project (who is accompanied by an arabic- speaking mediator) who have access to this Residence/ Prison. The migrants cannot leave without authorisation from the Prefecture of Agrigento, who naturally does not allow for any recreation time.
The same authorisation is necessary in order to see a doctor, should anyone need medical assistance. In such a situation, the police must inform the head of the Immigration Office on the island, who in turn has to request authorisation from the Prefecture in order to transfer the migrant to the clinic. The police hand out anti- inflammatories to patch up the more minor complaints such as flu- like symptoms. Last week the Prefecture sent medical supplies to the residence to be distributed to the Somalians. The public security agents on duty refused to take responsibility for the administration of the drugs, so in the end it was the cleaning staff who did it.  
Thanks to the good work of the police (there is a 24 hr police patrol within the structure), last week the Italian government were able to make out that there were no migrants on the island.
Only in the past few weeks have there been a few Somalians present along the roads of the centre of Lampedusa (they manage to leave the structure without being seen) which reveals the reality. For 22 days the Somalians have been in a state of detention in precarious conditions. Last week, only after a protest which went on for days and resulted in a hunger strike, did the migrants manage to have a change of clothes (it was days that they had been wearing the same clothes they had travelled in along with a few garments supplied by "Lampedusa Accoglienza" on the day they arrived) and a small personal hygiene kit (the second since their arrival). Their protests were subdued with the distribution of telephone cards. Many of the migrants continue to walk around barefoot. Identification procedures, carried out by the Agrigento Police Headquarters on the island finished last Thursday. They took a long time to complete due to the fact that the migrants stuck glue to their fingertips. This is often done by the migrants in the hope that won't leave any traces of themselves or their passage through Italy and that they can go on to other northern European countries, without the risk of becoming a "Dublin Case".
All 24 Somalians are potential asylum seekers, but they are unable to complete their request while on the island as one of the necessary forms is unavailable (C3).
The reason for their stay on the island should be as the result of a lack of places within the Sicilian CARAs (Hosting Centre for Asylum Seekers). Yet it is also due to the gap in the transfer system, which up until now has been managed by the Civil Protection. Rumour has it that there is no more money available to keep the "North African Emergency" running, which has nonetheless been extended by the government until 31st December 2012. Everything has stopped and as usual, those who have to pay for the consequences of an irrational and inhumane system are the migrants and their human rights. This is also something which the Public Prosecutor's Office should investigate.
Despite all this, the works at the Imbriacola Centre continue. By the end of the month the centre will reopen with a capacity of 250. These are very few places in comparison with the likely number of arrivals expected during the summer and the fact the CARAs on mainland Sicily are full, which is a consequence of the unending waits imposed by the Commissions in Syracuse and Trapani and the politics of the Mineo Centre, where the migrants' stay is extended limitlessly in order to guarantee the management's expenses.
The umpteenth failing of the Italian system of managing the flux of migrants is already knocking at the door.

Germana Graceffo
Borderline Sicilia Onlus