Sonntag, 1. März 2015

It rains and the field is flooded. Member of the European Parliament Eleonora Forenza: “The camp needs to be closed down”

A flooded field and migrants in the mud: nothing new in the camp close of PalaNebiolo. After the last heavy rain, the baseball field is in an alarmingly critical condition. Firefighters already reported the cause of the problem during an inspection in October 2013: a defective drainage system of the baseball field leads to frequent flooding during the winter months. Especially the ocean front of the field has been struck very hard by this.

After the spectacle of thirty-two flooded tents took place in front of the parliamentarians Erasmo Palazzotto (Sel) and Francesco d’Uva (M5S) as well as Representative Valentina Zafarana, Eleonora Forenza, Member of the European Parliament as a candidate of “The Other Europe with Tsipras”, got to see the flooded field while inspecting the center in Messina today. She was accompanied by civil and regional representatives of “The Other Europe”, “Rifondazione” (Refoundation) and “Change from Below – Messina” – namely Mimmo Cosentino, Maurizio Rella and Alfredu Crupi – as well as several activists. Following, some impressions by Eleonora Forenza: “This is an arrangement without any kind of legal rules and with obvious structural flaws. It is in fact the first time I visit a completely flooded center. The only possible reaction to this scandal is closing down this camp. This is my answer.” Currently, approximately 60 people are accommodated in the center, all of them of masculine gender and of sub-Saharan origin. Conversations with the migrants reveal their discomfort which is caused by their living in tents and in the cold. In addition, as Forenza reports, “showers are not in a good condition and, even though some of them are labelled exclusively for women, they are de facto communal”. The center did in fact also accommodate women and sometimes even nuclear families in the past.

This is the unfortunately known state of the camp. Due to time constraints, it was impossible to say much about the two other urban centers for migrants. These are, firstly, the center in former barracks of Bisconte in which the ministry of the interior wants to set up a CARA* for (at least) 600 people, and, secondly, the controversial IPAB* “Scandurra Osservatori Riuniti”. According to a public notice from regulatory authorities, the latter is intended for asylum seekers. After a scandal became known last autumn concerning hundreds of unaccompanied minor refugees who were left on their own devices in the tents of PalaNebiolo regardless of their gender, “Scandurra Osservatori Riuniti” was converted into a facility for approximately 150 unaccompanied minors by order of regulatory authority.

As an overall statement about Italian migration policy, the document by the members of “The Other Europe Messina” states: “The reception made in Italy is an exemplar of hostility: Isolated and overcrowded centers, in which people who differ in origin and language are pent-up and forced to live in a prison regime or something similar even though none has committed a crime. They have to search for work, relatives, or friends without any right to self-determination”. About the other centers in Messina, “The Other Europe Messina” points out that in addition to the camp scandal “the situation in the former barracks Gasparro di Bisconte is similarly embarrassing: the migrants live huddled in huge rooms full of bunk beds, without any privacy or dignity, in horrible circumstances, again, without consideration of gender”. Regarding the unaccompanied minors, it is suggested that “there are, on the one hand, laws such as the presidential decree from August, 13th, 2014, which improve the structural standards for the admission of foreign, unaccompanied minors, and, on the other hand, small institutions, such as religious facilities, group homes, and housing projects, are excluded from invitations to tender”.

This is the case particularly for Messina and in general for Italy. In the range of European politics, where Forenza acts as a member of the European parliament, the debates about the Dublin III Regulation could not be ignored. This regulation forces migrants to apply for asylum in the country in which the first identification occurs, not in a country of their choice – even though many migrants actually have other destinations inside Europe. As a consequence, they have to stay in Italy to prevent illegality. Concerning this matter, Forenza disclosed that “The Other Europe” plans to change the Dublin Regulation. If asked how they plan to change it, she answers: “These people flee from war and famine scenarios. This is why it is insane to prevent them from journeying on. A possible solution might be to enable the processing of applications for asylum in the countries of origin”.

Even though she is a colleague of the other Italian member of the European Parliament Matteo Salvini, Eleonora Forenza has strong opinions on the emphasis on control on European borders by means of operations such as Triton, which is coordinated by Frontex: “By conducting such operations, we account for the continuing of hundreds of people dying on sea”.

After the camp’s inspection, the member of the European Parliament briefly greeted Mayor Renato Accorinti at the city hall.

Eleonora Corace

*CARA – reception center for asylum seekers

*IPAB – Italian public institution for welfare and support.

Translation: Annika Schadewaldt