Montag, 4. Januar 2016

Let’s reject everyone or even better, let's not!

 “If we hadn't seen it with our own eyes, it would have been difficult to believe what Italy is doing. We are producing “illegal immigrants”, and entirely consciously. A human being, one who has just arrived after a journey across the desert, Libya and the sea, has been rejected with a piece of paper whose meaning he doesn’t even understand, but which actually condemns him to irregularity since the moment of his entering the country. This is an individual who has been deprived of every possibility of a real life. Italy is following “orders” coming from Europe and doesn’t realize that the only way to move beyond this, for their sake and for its own, is to give them leave to remain, a travel document, and to let these people enter Europe with their heads held high. We should drape them in legality! Instead of throwing them onto the streets, as they've been doing around here for some months now.”

These are the words spoken by Anna, one of many who fortunately have not surrendered to the racist drift in our system. From Saturday afternoon, Anna and others have closely followed the 198 young men ejected in the past two days from the new hotspot in Trapani.
Her presence, along with that of Marco, a local activist and reporter, and that of workers from the Red Cross who have taken care of, fed and walked with the boys under the stars these past two days, has created the conditions to force institutions to make an about turn and give a real chance to apply for asylum to those migrants who have expressed the will to do so.
The notification for the deferred rejections of around 40 people, and their simultaneous removal from the hotspot, began on Saturday at around 6pm. On Sunday, however, it also extended to the rest of the group who had disembarked at Palermo on December 29th: in all, around 200 people of various nationalities, including people from Gambia, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Pakistan, Mali and Guinea.

Those who had been rejected on Saturday slept in the streets of Trapani, on a bench in the cold and without anything to eat. As long as the numbers were small no one took notice. But when the whole two hundred filled Piazza Vittorio, nothing could be done to sweep the situation under the rug. The migrants moved en masse to the train station, but there wasn’t any train to catch. And, if there had been any, without any money it wouldn’t have been easy to catch it, as other groups in the same situation have experienced out in other train stations in Sicily. Returning to Piazza Vittorio, the Red Cross endeavoured to get some food for them.
The Prefect quickly decided to open an emergency shelter in a gym near the port, having observed the situation (and also the physical proximity of the Piazza to the building in question). The structure was completely inadequate however, lacking as it did any beds, mattresses or a sufficient number of toilets, but at least it allowed them not to spend the night out in the open. The Red Cross took care of food thanks also to donations from local restaurants in Trapani and Marsala.

All the migrants we spoke to told us that they hadn’t had any opportunity to apply for asylum and, on the contrary, that officials had summoned them to sign papers without any explanation, so that they could leave the hotspot, but without specifying that they were meant to leave Italy as well.
If somebody asked for an explanation before signing, they were shut down with a simple “no problem”, meaning that everybody signed, even a young man with albinism and allegedly some minors as well. The police station claimed that no minor had been rejected, but those who were present reported that some of the men were clearly under age.
At that stage, given the concern about everything going on, the rejected migrants started to ask about their fate, but no one was prepared to give them any answers.

Today the Prefect called an emergency meeting in which were present representative of various public institutions, officials from the Red Cross and a few MPs from the Five Stars Movement, who once informed about the incident wanted to follow the events. The final decision was an about turn, as has also happened in Agrigento in recent days, after migrants demonstrated in front of the police station and were consequently taken to Villa Sikania in order to begin the process of requesting international protection. In the same way, by the evening, the migrants had been transferred from the gym back to the hotspot.
What has happened in Trapani is the umpteenth demonstration that these totally unlawful practices are the expression of a political strategy, whose madness and indefensibility is actually recognised by the same institutions, which have to cope with the situation on the ground. What this means in practice is a kind of schizophrenic activity which, besides violating human rights and demolishing the right to asylum, also equates to a high burden on public funds. The people we are rescuing from the sea are the same people who immediately afterwards, we simply throw on the trash.

Alberto Biondo
Borderline Sicilia Onlus

Translated by Traduzioni Clandestine / Proofread by Richard Braude