Montag, 14. September 2015

Crossing the ocean at age 12. Hundreds of minors have reached the Sicilian coast

The number of unaccompanied minors who come across the ocean to Sicily is rapidly and continuously increasing. With almost every landing, dozens if not hundreds of teenagers are registered who take on the crossing alone and they keep getting younger, such as the 154 Egyptian minors who arrived at Augusta on September, 4th.
The fortress Europe continues to insist on a superficial and dangerous subdivision in ‘economic migrant’ and ‘potential asylum seeker’, and, therefore, improves its identification processes and subsequent deportation. Yet, scores of common people tempt their fate and face death every day and, thereby, expose the opportunistic, permeable, and discriminating nature of this classification system.

Once more, we have to ask ourselves with what boldness Europe sends back hundreds of Moroccans, Tunisians, and Egyptians; the very people who make up a significant number of the work force that has held the most difficult and degrading jobs for years and are exploited in every country of the European Union. Nevertheless, the hypocrisy seems to go hand in hand with the need for visibility and political constructs, which we will understand better soon. That is to say, no one asks why hundreds of people who are almost still children, leave their countries, or what happens in Egypt, but what is covered instead is the arrivals and, thus, pointing out the necessity of further militarizing strategies and control as the only means to fight human trafficking. Sometimes not even this happens. They rather stick with pious comments employing rhetoric of a good heart and pity to avoid having to talk about the horrid living conditions in these countries or the business surrounding these minors. From organized crime, such as human trafficking, to the business of some of the people involved with so-called reception and first accommodation centers who unfortunately see managing projects aimed at minors as a means to receive more money from the state. There are many issues that need clarification to overcome the fearmongering and manipulative excuses that call all this an emergency.

What can the arriving minors expect in Sicily? The 154 Egyptian teenagers who arrived with another 74 migrants in Augusta last Friday were brought to the center for first accommodation Umberto I in Siracusa where most of them still reside today. This is a rather unfortunate placement as the law stipulates relocating minors to projects specifically designed for them. Umberto I, however, is not the place where the minors should be even though it was indeed designed to lodge minors. Save the Children accompanies the teenagers since their arrival and reported about first relocating efforts to Campania, Lazio, and other Sicilian centers as well as about the continuous search for appropriate accommodation for the remaining 95 minors. There seem to be no more room in Sicily. The average age is very low; some claim to be twelve even if looking much younger. Their health condition seems relatively good. Some minors have left the center autonomously, and yesterday some activists spoke of circa ten Egyptian teenagers who camped in Catania’s train station waiting for a bus to Rome. This serious incident will most likely repeat itself because of the precarious accommodation conditions.
Lately, numerous Egyptian minors were also relocated from the CPSA* of Pozzallo, in which they were hopefully only accommodated for a very short time. Now, some of them are in a reception center managed by Mediterranean Hope in Scicli, where they started to be in contact with the outside world and are finally sure to be in a safe place. Yet, what happens to all the other teenagers in the meantime and what will happen to those who will arrive in the future?

This morning, September, 12th, another 145 migrants arrived at the harbor of Ibleo. Among them are 55 unaccompanied minors from Egyptian and Sub-Saharan Africa who are currently brought to the CPSA*. Reception needs to be prepared according to the law, there needs to be an attempt to enable accommodation all over Italy and to guarantee the necessary protection, and there needs to be commenting on the causes that lead hundreds of minors to risk their lives by crossing the ocean. A lot of people are willing to share beautiful pictures that are taken with the minors at their arrival at the harbor, to use the pictures of young faces for their fundraising campaigns. Still, few are willing to question the causes that brought these minors here, and too few try to give them the opportunity to create a future that lives up to the meaning of the word.

Lucia Borghi
Borderline Sicilia Onlus

*CPSA: Centro di Soccorso e prima Accoglienza: Primary care and initial reception center.

Translation: Annika Schadewaldt