Mittwoch, 6. November 2013

The testimonies of other refugees robbed by the Italian military

In the wake of the tragic shipwrecks of the October 3 and 11, the inauguration of the much publicised humanitarian rescue operation Mare Nostrum has been marred by the report made by around thirty Syrians of theft whilst aboard an Italian military vessel.
The refugees, who had been intercepted at sea and transferred to the ship Chimera, reported to the mobile squadron of the Agrigento police authority that they had had their money and jewellery, brought with them on their journey, taken away by the Italian military. This has lead to the opening of two investigations: one at the prosecutor’s office in Agrigento and one at the military prosecutor’s office.

Information of equal seriousness was also recounted by two citizens from Somalia and Syria who had been rescued on the 19 October by an Italian military ship. They described the same set of circumstances as those reported by the other migrants. The two were amongst a group of  230 people who had departed from Libya on  October 17 on a vessel which after three days at sea broke down, leaving those aboard without food or drink.

The two migrants told us that on the third day of the voyage their vessel was joined by two large Italian military ships and that all were then transferred aboard one of these. Upon boarding they were requested by the military personnel to hand over all of their personal belongings and were told that they would have them returned in due course. The refugees were kept on board for around one hour, receiving neither assistance nor items for their physical comfort.

Following this they were then transferred to the other military ship (larger than the first)  bearing the name “San Marco”. Once aboard they were given water by the military personnel, issued with numbers, and individually photographed. The personnel informed them that identification procedures were to be carried out by the Italian police who were present in civilian clothes but wearing ID cards visibly displayed. At this point all 230 refused to undergo the identification procedure, however, the Italian police warned them that they would be detained on the ship until they consented to the identification. In particular, they responded to one elderly Syrian woman who was complaining of hunger that she would only receive food on the condition that she consented to being identified. 

They described to us that after some moments of tension the police officers proceeded  to obtain the fingerprints of each person in turn, making use of physical force to place the hand on the sensory pad to take the digital fingerprints. 
Following the completion of this procedure, a team of Italian TV journalists (Rai News 24 n.d.r.) subsequently appeared so as to get some shots of the area where the migrants had been placed together and also the military personnel, who at which point adopted a friendly behaviour towards the minors present there, picking them up and playing  with them.
Some Syrians, finding themselves in contact with the journalists, told the story of what had taken place on board the first military ship but none of their reports were taken seriously. 
On the second day aboard the second military ship, the crew on board returned their personal belongings to each of them, but not the money or the jewellery. 
They also said that during the time aboard they had slept on the bare steel floor of the ship’s vehicle hold.

They were not given clothes or shoes, and no medical checks were carried out on anyone present. Among the 230 migrants,  those who complained of ill health were given only pain killers by the medical personnel upon request. 
On  October 25 the ship they were travelling on docked at the port of Augusta (SR), where they were greeted by the Red Cross and UNHCR to whom they immediately reported what had taken place.
They were then transferred to Siracusa (to Randone), where they spent their first night. After this they then left and arrived in Catania from where many departed for other  destinations.

When they were talking to us they were still having difficulty in believing the reality of what had taken place. They showed us a video taken with a mobile phone camera aboard their stricken vessel showing images of joy and celebration upon seeing the Italian Military ships. The young Somalian man repeated several times that he had loved Italy since his childhood, that he had supported Italy during all the Football world cup championships, that he had cried when Roberto Baggio scored. But now, after everything that has happened, his only intention is to get away from our country and never return.

Borderline Sicilia's Editorial Staff

(translated by Denise Wesley)