Freitag, 17. April 2015

Disappearing among the large numbers

They have reached the port of Catania tonight, the survivors of the immense tragedy of these days. 950 missing people to which are added new victims of the shipwreck that happened in the Aegean Sea this night, and others scattered on the coasts of Libya. These tragic numbers announced after the recent tragedies leave without words who for months and years of talk and false promises has heard too many of them. But it’s exactly this hypocrisy and opportunism of the official rhetoric that makes it inevitable to give expression to testimonies of those who have a historical depth in regard to the sensational news of the moment.
Ahead of the big numbers is set in motion the press around the world and each institutional representative feels, rightly, called into question, and in most cases almost forced to throw suggestions and proposals often improvised, to cushion the impact of such dramatic situations. The recent and increasingly frequent shipwrecks lately also led to the spread of stories and testimonies about the conditions of the departure of migrants, especially in camps in Libya. A major step forward which has the merit of giving a more realistic geopolitical vision of the migratory phenomenon, and which could eventually be connected to what migrants and activists have denounced for years.

The same applies to the descriptions of the journey in the sea. Last July, 49 migrants lost their lives because of being trapped in the hold of a boat and since then it seems that the distinction between travellers of first, second and third class has never failed, with refugees that narrate the most atrocious things they experienced at the time of boarding. "To me and other Gambians, they tied arms and legs with our clothes so that more people could get in the hold. I could not even wipe my vomit and I struggled to find some space to breathe. Other Nigerians on my boat were tied up because the smugglers considered them being too "restless" and thought they might create problems. If the boat stops and no help arrives, on board can unleash hell and many throw theimselves into the sea to put an end to it. I was lucky; my boat crossed a merchant vessel and my trip lasted only 16 hours. For sure it would not have been the same if we had to wait for the Coast Guard.’’ These are the words of L., who arrived in Italy two months ago. Like him, hundreds of other stories allow us to have at least a vague idea of ​​what it means to across by boat. Survival is linked to destiny and for the majority of Sub-Saharan, Eritrean, Sudanese, Pakistan and Bangladeshi migrants even the journey that precedes the arrival at this moment can end up in the worst way at any moment. Stories that disappear from the news, however, focusing instead on more "sensational" news like the alleged dispute between Muslims and Christians in the sea.

But in the game of large numbers, it is easy to disappear. Even once having reached the mainland, since the "organized" welcoming, still unjustifiably acting based on emergency, provides mostly the transfer of migrants in already overcrowded centres and mostly in Sicily. Indeed, there is an on-going on new arrivals and transfers to Pala Nebiolo and the former barracks Bisconti in Messina; new arrivals are also brought to Cara di Salinagrande and Pian del Lago, other to Cas, recently opened and with questionable sustainability in the Syracuse area. Not taking any position from the part of the prefecture of Ragusa, avoided only a few days ago the prolonged concentration of nearly 500 migrants in CPSA of Pozzallo. A decision which led to a long night of waiting outside the port for 300 migrants who had to wait for the partial transfer of those who occupied the centre hours before, but now, with the latest transfers and new arrivals on Sunday, the situation seems to be stabile with 150 people present. The option of large gatherings and the prevailing logic of "economic" and not the protection of migrants, however, are evident in the continued transfers of newcomers to Cara Mineo. The decision to allocate the survivors of the shipwreck on Saturday was scandalous, right at the moment, when the prosecutor discloses investigations on an alleged international network of smugglers, suspected of being among the "organizers" of the journey also ended in tragedy and that would have a logistic base just inside the camp.

Migrants, most probably, destined to become a number of thousands or hundreds of guests who gather in the big centres, where the individual protection and confirmed by the power of law becomes a luxury or a privilege for a few. The large numbers dazzle, play the game of who appeals easily to the emergency, and especially conceal violations of fundamental rights, such as individual and personalized medical, psychological, legal and social assistance, migrants held for years awaiting a response in these conditions. Not to mention the chance to build a new life path or to be integrated in the host society: another point between the rights and obligations pertaining to each person and sponsored by some of the managers of the  "welcoming", which is totally in contradiction with the position and the structure of the same centres.

There is a lot to do, now more difficult than ever, in order to avoid that in front of bigger and bigger tragedies there is an even higher risk that the attention will be focused only on the big numbers which are connected to people, or the transfer of money that set in motion some logical doubts regarding aid and welcoming. We have to recover humanity hidden in-between the numbers in order to be able to react.
Lucia Borghi 
Borderline Sicilia Onlus

Translation: Catherine Scholz