Donnerstag, 10. Dezember 2015

Agrigento: Hundreds of refugees, among them people from Somalia and unaccompanied minors, rejected and left out on the street

“Seven Days,” that is how refugees call the order for “delayed deportation” according to section 10 paragraph 2 of the unified text about migration which asks them to leave Italian territory from the airport Fiumicino in Rome in the course of seven days. During the last months, this happened to hundreds of people and, how the last days showed, the numbers are increasing. The province Agrigento is home to the most severe situation, which is not a coincidence.

 From all the designated hotspots in Sicily of the Italian road map, the ex-CPSA* is the only officially active one on Lampedusa. After the temporary exception due to Mare Nostrum, the island is again the main point of arrival, an important crossroad for the fate of those refugees saved on sea. Although it is everything but easy to check the administrative modalities of the center, we are able to reproduce from the many witness reports that were backed up from several trustworthy sources the following report:

After mooring, the refugees undergo a health inspection in Lampedusa’s harbor. Afterwards, they are brought to the hotspot. There, a special police force proceeds with the photographic identification and hands out registration documents. The priority set by Brussels is to immediately execute the subdivision of the refugees in two categories: asylum seekers and so-called economic refugees. The goal to accept the former and reject the latter is obvious. The physical separation takes place on board of the ferry that connects Lampedusa with Porto Empedocle. The asylum seekers are brought to the center in Villa Sikania (Siculiana) while the “economic refugees” are informed about the deportation order issued by the police of Agrigento. Subsequently, they are brought to Agrigento and left out on the street without any further instruction.
Innumerable aspects of this procedure are subject to critique. Deportation orders solely issued on nationality seem unlawful as the way in which the nationality is verified seems doubtful. Not taking into account the existence of bi- or multilateral agreements with third countries about the re-admission of refugees, it is important to take the individual situation of the case into consideration. Yet, there have still been accounts of collective deportations, a practice that undermines the existing right of asylum. Furthermore, these kinds of procedures often turn out to be discriminating. Banning the application process for asylum based on citizenship means to deny personal rights that are defined by international and national standards. Along those lines the refusal of the Agrigento police to accept applications for international protection by already rejected migrants is illegitimate.
The severe violations described so far provoke an emergency situation in Agrigento that also spreads to other principal cities in Sicily. The rejected refugees are literally out on the street. Volunteering organizations try to contain the situation yet are unable to provide the necessary support. The dorms are crowded and today a lot of refugees are forced to sleep on the street in Agrigento. Moreover, the numbers grow rapidly and alarmingly. Around forty rejected refugees arrived on Tuesday, December, 8, and in addition around fifty more arrived between today and yesterday. It is important to remind ourselves that the ferry between Lampedusa and Porto Empedocle leaves in the morning and arrives in the evening, except for not scheduled trips. This means that the refugees arrive around ten p.m. at the Agrigento train station, a time when no train is running. A lot of them managed to reach Palermo and Catania in the last couple of days, but in both cities they have found similar difficulties to find a place to sleep.
Furthermore, we want to point out the several notifications of pending deportation which asylum seekers received from the prefecture of Agrigento that were simultaneously given out with a rejection of their appeal for international protection. Concerning these cases of “delayed deportation” and the deportation of asylum seekers, Borderline Sicilia, the Caritas, and Sezione siciliana Asgi demanded a meeting in the prefecture, which was accepted so that a meeting took place on December, 3rd. This grave situation of deportation, however, was not sufficiently discussed, because of the refusal of the police. The meeting was attended by the head of the section IV civil law, citizenship, the legal status of foreigners, immigration, and asylum law, Mrs. Passalacqua and two officers of the prefecture. An aspect that came up repeatedly in the meeting was the new direction the Ministry of the interior has decided on and which Mrs. Passalacqua continually remarked on when speaking about various newsletters (especially one sent out mid-September by the Ministry of the interior). This new direction does not allow for any room to negotiate when it comes to the destiny of those refugees that hail from countries with which Italy has a repatriation agreement. As no newsletter or a road map can make applicable law void, it is important to point out that there are many registered cases of Somali citizens who were deported because of their refusal to undergo the identification processes. Finally, we received several notes on unaccompanied minors who randomly were identified as being of age and consequently were deported.
In light of the circumstances we illustrated, we declare our deep-felt concern over the present situation and urgently request a new meeting with the prefecture and the police of Agrigento to discuss these practices that violate human rights and risk to create a new social emergency for the umpteenth time. We hope that these practices can immediately be stopped as was the case in Catania after a meeting with local authorities and representatives of the civil population.

Redazione Borderline Sicilia Onlus

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

Translation: Annika Schadewaldt