Montag, 30. Mai 2016

Landings in Eastern Sicily: Everyone Who Arrives Has Witnessed a Continuous Massacre

The week just gone by is being singled out as “one to forget” by the TV and newspapers which provide the continuous facts and numbers of disembarked migrants, the dead and the lost at sea. We have to ask ourselves how it is possible, indeed, that we continue to ignore, to have no memory of the thousands of refugees who have died over years through attempting to reach Europe. In less than seven days there have been three shipwrecks, with 70 victims verified but more than 700 people missing, and the possibility of establishing safe passage for the fleeing is still not being considered. To be honest one can only feel anger and shame to be part of a community so inhumane, one, which occupies itself only with protecting its own interests and Fortress Europe's borders.

Foto: Lucia Borghi
On Saturday 884 migrants were brought to the port of Catania on board the Vos Thalassa, a tugboat which was too small for transporting so many people in dignified conditions. For “security reasons” we were forced to follow the landing operation from a significant distance, along with the majority of journalists – but the restricted size of the tugboat did not escape us, nor did the cries from within. As the Prefecture confirmed later, there was a great deal of agitation on board: the migrants, literally crammed together, pushed forward to alight from the boat as soon as land was in view, evidencing their own legitimate suffering with one voice. Among them were 120 women and as many children, who had left Libya on four different boats and dinghies. Originally from Eritrea, Ivory Coast, Mali, Bangladesh and Gambia, some of them had spent four days at sea before being rescued.
They reach the port at its furthest point; from far away, we can see the immediate transferral of the pregnant women, and the way through the tents for pre-identification. With the exception of the minors, all of the migrants who arrived today will be taken immediately to centres in North Italy, via the eighteen buses parked up on the quay. We ask ourselves if there will be an attempt to carry out screenings of the most vulnerable cases, if there will at least be a change of clothes for those who have arrived after a journey of thousands of kilometres, if the organisations present have been able to provide the information guaranteed by law to those who have just realised that they have survived but must now attentively respond to questions which play with their future. This week we have met more Eritrean migrants outside of the CARA* centre at Mineo, to where they were taken following the last landings. Forced to flee from the oppression of a military dictatorship, they now find themselves in Europe, trapped in a system, which categorises and controls them through techniques of government quite distant from those belonging to a democracy. “We have all been transferred here, they have taken our fingerprints – without any force – but then we didn't understand well where we do or don't have the right to go to. We don't even understand if we can stay in Italy or whether we have to be transferred to some place we don't know.” These are the word of B., a young economics student who, like so many others, has fled from the bonds of military service, which weighs down on so many young Eritrean men. And like him, many of the companions on his journey now wait inside the CARA in order to find out their fate, and above all their rights.
On Saturday other migrants from Eritrea and Somalia were brought to the port of Augusta, in two different boats, which arrived, exceptionally, within a few hours of each other. The first group comprised 515 people, the majority of whom are originally from sub-Saharan Africa who left the Libyan coast in four different dinghies, while a Maltese coast guard ship rescued another 225 refugees who left from the Egyptian coast.  For this last group, the voyage seems to have been extremely long and strenuous, last around nine days. We can only imagine and listen to the future accounts regarding the horrendous conditions in which the survivors – fleeing abuse and torture – have struggled against almost certain death.
The ever-worsening physical and psychological conditions of those who arrive are in fact he embodied testimony of the ferocious violence meted out on those who are on the run. The silences, the empty stares and the words, which begin to bubble up become the direct proof of the daily massacre which is subsuming the sea and beyond. Many of the 657 migrants who landed at Pozzallo have reconstructed the horrific period of their journey, in which friends, relatives, children and travel companions drowned at sea before their very eyes. These accounts speak of hundreds missing, of death and desperation, before which only the truly inhuman could remain indifferent. The particularly critical health conditions have meant that 47 people taken to land on a speedboat the previous evening, and brought to hospitals in Ragusa, Modica and Vittoria. Many more have scabies, and around 500 people have been transferred, while only 270 seem currently to reside in the Hotspot at Pozzallo. Checks, identification procedures and investigations continue with the full rhythm of an attitude of repression in the face of those who are forced to flee and die every day. These are massacres, which we want to deliberately ignore so as not to fully recognise our own complicity.
Lucia Borghi
Borderline Sicilia Onlus

Project "OpenEurope" - Oxfam Italia, Diaconia Valdese, Borderline Sicilia Onlus 

*CARA – Centro di accoglienza per richiedenti asilo: Hosting Centre for Migrants

Translated by Richard Braude