Freitag, 15. Mai 2015

A free choice which cannot be bordered

The European Commission has adopted the long awaited European Agenda on Migration these days. Major coverage and attention have been given to the strengthening of the mandate of FRONTEX and to the fight against human traffickers by making available new funding schemes and by planning joint maritime border control operations.
There have also been proposals for the transfer of migrants among different Member States and the resettlement of those already in the EU, with operating procedures to be reviewed until the end of May. In reference of the “Dublin System”, a truly priority issue due the upswing in massive arrivals, it has only been speculated a vague wish of revision, whereby nothing came of it.
In the meantime migrants do not stop their march (quest) for a better life. Today alone two landings affected Eastern Sicily: in Augusta, one of the vessels of MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station) in cooperation with the team of MSF (Doctors without borders) rescued 447 refugees, while a British vessel arrived this afternoon in the harbour of Catania with 617 people. These hundreds of men, women and children from Syria, Eritrea and Somalia will most likely carry on their way to Northern Europe, as their fellow countrymen and countrywomen did in the past.
Lately their getaway has received more attention from the local media, though the visibility was still very limited and focused on the episodes of extreme violence and exploitation. As for instance was the case with a group of young Pakistanis, Ethiopians, Eritrean and Moroccan citizens, who had been literally abducting fellow countrymen who were on the run and had been asking their families huge ransoms for guaranteeing their transit to Northern Italy.
Similarly the case of the attempted escape of a Nigerian boy, who had bought a train ticket to Catania and been reported during a furious argument with the ticket inspector caused by the fear of being identified. 
The media propaganda  restricts itself in rebuking the European Union to its responsibilities towards the management of migration  without exposing what happens in Italy. The so called “accomodation-machinery“ structured around a shameful state of perennial emergency, as of today turns out to be an unorganised, confused and out of control system, where the lack of will and of true change on the part of the institutions and most stakeholders involved is appalling.
In the meantime the migrants reaching Italy, who do not intend to stay in the country, linger on as the primary target of the racist and conformist advocates of a fruitless assistentialism. These migrants are still believed to be guilty of carrying on their will of choosing the place where they can build their future after having risked their lives over the seas. Guilty of refusing to remain amassed in improvised first welcome shelters and looking instead for personal protection. Guilty of harbouring trust with the capacity of welcoming a country like Italy, which - while denouncing human trafficking - hosts the latest arrivals in CARA-centres* in Mineo, where the existence of a cell of human traffickers has been at the same time unveiled. Guilty of keeping that determination in defending their right of a free choice, which we are often short of.
In the square in front of the train station in Catania, Eritrean and Somalian refugees who want to leave Italy have been gathering for weeks. They come from Syracuse, after having landed in Augusta, Pozzallo, from Palermo and even from Calabria and await the best ride. Catania turns thus to be the focal intersection for the travels towards Northern Italy. “ For me there is no other choice”, says D, whom I meet in Syracuse at the beginning of the month. “My cousin lives in England and I have been forced to go through Libya and take the maritime route to join him. I will certainly not stop my travel here in Italy.”  The same assertion is given by the Eritrean youngsters who camp at the station in Catania. “Nobody here wants to stay. We ask ourselves how we can go away from here in the safest way”, tells O. on behalf of the his travel mates, who do not speak English. “ We do not know yet whether we will be able to get a bus or a ride by somebody. We wait.” The massive presence of migrants in the last weeks caused the collapse to the structures for the very first aid: in the Help Center run by Caritas, located next to the train station, the distribution of meals is hardly enough to satisfy everybody and the same goes for the distribution of clothes and the opportunity of using showers and restrooms. Not far away from there, in Piazza della Repubblica, tens and tens of refugees gather and camp, among them many women and children. Some of them hold papers with names and the telephone numbers linked to the different Italian cities: Milan, Rome, Bologna. All around them, as we know, a net of small and big smugglers, who are ready to ask exorbitant sums for a ride up North. Some of them have found themselves in the same condition few years ago and try now to perk themselves up by exploiting their fellow countrymen, who came after them. “ We are aware that in Italy there is no place for us and we cannot risk of staying here for years for nothing”, confides to us C. “ Many among us have friend and relatives spread in Europe and want to join them. Anyone shall be able to decide where to live, or am I right?”  This would be the question on which the European Commission should work but one more time it seems that they do not have an answer.
Lucia Borghi- Borderline Sicilia Onlus

*CARA - Centro di accoglienza per richiedenti asilo: Hosting centre for asylum seekers

Translation: Marco Baldan