Samstag, 4. Oktober 2014

Fleeing migrants. Who lands, who is returned and who loses his life at sea

In the anniversary of the 3 October carnage, it is still dramatic the situation of who has no other choice than running away by sea, in order to escape from bombs, survive and build his own future. Even during the last week, the arrival of 528 migrants was recorder just on southern Sicilian coast. 135 arrived during the night of the 30th of September in Pozzallo harbor. Out of these 135, 118 were men, 8 were women and 8 were children. They were rescued in international waters south from Malta by the Greek tanker “Aegean Myth”.
Between them, there were many Syrians and Palestinians who were received in the harbor by the Police; Frontex; by volunteers of the Italian Red Cross (CRI); Civil Protection; doctors from the local healthcare service (ASP); and by Doctors Without Borders (DWB).

Just during these last days a public notice from DWB (Doctors Without Borders),try to shed light on the suspected presence of Ebola cases among migrants. This public notice is part of an activity of counter-information which is always more difficult, given the mystifying tendency of some bad press ( http://www.corrierediragusa.it/articoli/attualit%C3%A0/pozzallo/27912-niente-ebola-a-pozzallo-per-i-medici-senza-frontiere.html ). The refugees were quickly boarded on busses, which took them to the nearest CPSA, from where they are going to be moved along with large groups of Egyptian minors, who used to live there from the beginning of September.

That very night, evading the controls of Mare Nostrum, a group of immigrants landed in the coastal area between Contrada Cirica in the town of Ispica, and the district granules in Pachino, on a makeshift boat. They are 77 in total, including 47 men, 13 women and 17 children. They come from Afghanistan and Iraq.They were identified by police as they walked exhausted from the trip, on the road between Pachino and Pozzallo. Subsequently, they were escorted by the police of the CPSA Pozzallo. (http://www.radiortm.it/2014/10/03/i-migranti-bloccati-ispica-erano-arrivati-yacht-concluse-indagini/#more-259039).

316 other migrants come instead on board of the military patrol "Cassiopeia", in the morning of October the 1st, in the port of Augusta. They were rescued the night before in the Ionian Sea, at about 200 miles off Lampedusa. They traveled all on a single barge, which was into serious danger given bad weather conditions.

We arrive at the harbor together with the operators of Praesidium and some journalists and we join DWB doctors; law enforcement officials; Frontex members; Red Cross and Civil Defence volunteers who are already waiting on the platform. Many faces protrude from the top of the ship. There are smiles among dead bodies in blacks bags and life jackets scattered on the deck. There are Somali women with the faces framed by colored veils; sub-Saharan boys peering the platform and many young people who raise hands and arms in greeting. The sun is strong, even though by now it is fall, when we head to the camp, which was set up in the harbor, together with the first landed migrants. The police escort us. Along the way, I exchange a few words with A., a native of Darfur, who tells me about his long journey. "We started about 8/9 days ago from Egypt. Some of us were already on board of our "ship" near Alexandria, waiting to reach the number to set sail. It was a very long and hard trip. I lost track of the time, but certainly we have been at sea for more than a week ". Many other refugees confirmed me this version, in spite of the conclusions drawn in haste by some citizens present at the landing, who speculated a brief journey, given the good shape of the first landed migrants. “My journey actually began in 2008, " says A. " when I left Darfur and, after a long journey, I was taken prisoner in Israel. There's a ruthless racism there and black immigrants are imprisoned basically just because they exist. I have been in prison six months, after which I decided to return to Sudan. I tried again to stay in my country, but I really could not. Every day I struggled to survive. Thus, six months ago, I left. I was determined to embark for Italy. And now I am very, very happy of having arrived."

Many bow to kiss the hot asphalt in gratitude, rub their hands full of earth and raise them to the sky to thank. " We're alive, we're safe," are the first words that I gather also from a Gaza family: "The only thing that bothers me right now is not being able to immediately inform those who I have left at home. I want to tell everyone that I survived”, says M., who fled in early September with his children and his cousins. Meanwhile, we reach the camp, but unlike other times, migrants are seated and fed on the asphalted square between the tents, where they will be exposed to hot sun until mid-afternoon, after the initial identification process. The operators of Praesidium begin to distribute multilingual information brochures to provide migrants with the first explanations about their situation. “Is it true that now not even the Syrians can move? ", says S., a girl from Aleppo, who translates in English to all her family, "we do not know yet where to go. We spent two years in Egypt, where my father worked without being paid. Maybe we will stay in Italy, maybe not, but how to choose? I would just like to go to school and my family would like to live without fear of death, blackmail, and threats. Because this is the situation in Egypt right now."

The 316 landed come from Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Iraq, Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan.Among them there are also 44 unaccompanied minors, who are transferred in the centres of Priolo and in the former Schools “Scuole Verdi” in via Dessiè. We go there a little later and we learn that the centre already hosts other 115 boys. Back at the camp police operations are in full swing, with four suspected Egyptian smugglers arrested and sent to Cavadonna prison, and above all - as reported by the press the next day- with the grouping of about 28 Egyptian adults awaiting immediate repatriation. This procedure is performed in fulfillment of the umpteenth agreement signed by Italy with the Egyptian government. A practice that speaks for itself in front of the scars, the bare feet and especially the stories, just heard today, told by who was able to touch the ground. "There are people who were definitely less lucky than us",

emphasizes Z. with a small voice, referring to a friend who lost his life at sea months ago. “What is wrong is the commemoration. We should not commemorate and mourn, not only. Even the slaughters are a starting point to claim, and to act.” The next day comes as a boomerang the news of a shipwreck off Libyan coast.

http://www.ansa.it/sito/notizie/mondo/2014/10/02/-naufragio-al-largo-libia-10-morti-decine-dispersi-_9fad7420-8b86-4129-a633-692993b86056.html. Another list of people who have not arrived, and friends of survivors who demand from us concrete actions.


Lucia Borghi

Borderline Sicilia Onlus

Translated by Alessandra Mancini

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