Samstag, 28. Mai 2016

We Are Rebuilding the Emergency

Foto Alberto Biondo
The piercing cry of children, the black stare of a young man accused of smuggling, the fear of a woman who cannot withstand the umpteenth queue, the uncertain advance of the hundreds who descend the steps of the Dattilo awaiting the next interminable line into the unknown. We have assisted at this disembarking as at many others in Palermo in recent days, where 1,052 people were landed after having been saved in eight different Search And Rescue operations. 
As usual, everyone present at the port, institutional and otherwise, made their effort for a good outcome to the operation. But as usual good will is not enough, and it is inevitable that the problems in a malfunctioning system are shown up in the process. The young men in line clearly are having difficulty. It is enough to observe how they hold themselves whe the police ask them to wait yet again: they sit on the ground, and their position is just as inside a boat, one behind the other, a sign of fear and psychological distress. They bear the torture and violence with them, remaining indelibly within their memories.
Foto Alberto Biondo

After three days on the boat, the excoriations of the skin are evident, and passing an entire day under the burning Palermo sun is no holiday. For many, the journey continues immediately after landing, taken by coach to Lombardy, Venice, Tuscany, Campania and Piedmont. Others, including minors, before arriving at the emergency centres, passed the night out in the open, in the police station, waiting late into the night for the taking of fingerprints. And for another 85 adults, who declared themselves minors, fate has played another game: a night spent at the port inside a coach, to be taken from the Palermo police station at dawn, and finally to be set off on their journey, around 9am the next day: CAS* in the central Italian province of Marche.
Foto Alberto Biondo

And it is the newly arriving minors, those coming from Gambia, Nigeria, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Senegal, who remain in Sicily, who will pay the high price for a collapsing system. As there are no free posts in centres for minors, they will be forced to pass an indefinite and illegal period of time in a Hotspot (as is happening till today in Lampedusa and Pozzallo). Or, as in Palermo, they will be taken into emergency centres staffed by volunteers (as those made available by Caritas) or crammed into the existing centres, scenes of daily protest (for example, at the Asante centre on Via Monfenera in Palermo). Or worse still, they will be sent to centres in economic deficit, which free themselves of newly turned 18-year-olds by placing them at the door out of the blue, wiping out any hope or expectations (as with the case of a young Nigerian man, a former resident of the “Dumbo” centre in Licata).

We cannot leave out, obviously, the singling out of 16 presumed smugglers (two for each boat rescued), scapegoats to slap on the front page, and 27 potential judicial witnesses.

Foto Alberto Biondo
All that remains, after a disembarking of so many people, are the plastic bags floating along the quay and the indelible memory of the migrants' gaze. In his failed system, the good will of NGO workers who, as much as they can, attempt to ease people's arrival and permanence, is simply not enough. But surely it is enough to cry out once more that we are in full emergency, so as to allow the cogs to run more smoothly for those who manage and profit from this killing game.
Alberto Biondo
Borderline Sicilia Onlus

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

CAS* – Centro di accoglienza straordinaria : Extraordinary Reception Centres

Translated by Richard Braude