Mittwoch, 14. September 2016

“Don't Call Them Economic Migrants”. MEDU Explains the Exodus to Europe

An interactive map shows refugees' voyages, from desert to boat. Ninety per cert of them are victims of violence, abuse and psychological trauma. “The dichotomy of economic migrant and refugee isn't up to explaining a complex reality like this.”

ROME – When Shiva draws the sea it's always black. Having left Libya at only 10-years-old, the Mediterranean is always an image of death and pain for her, things which she saw for her own eyes when she miraculously survived a shipwreck. Together, her drawings represent the eye witness accounts of so many migrants we have met across Italy, from Sicily to Venitmiglia, who have put together the 'Esodi'(Exoduses) interactive map, together with MEDU (Doctors for Human Rights), which was presented in Rome today. The thousand people interviewed (870 men and 130 women, including 133 minors) reflect the voices of the protagonists of the journey to Europe, a journey which forthe vast majority is accompanied by trauma, torture and violence.

These people are telling us about the tragedy and hope of our times” emphasised Alberto Barbieri, President of MEDU. “Their many stories, in all their diversity, nonetheless provide a general account of the terrible difficulties they, like everyone, have gone through. The journey across the Sahara, the violence, the torture in the detention centres at the hands of the traffickers and the police, especially in Libya – and finally the journey across the Mediterranean. Voyages dictated by the necessities of survival.”

MEDU's interactive map reconstructs a picture of a forced Exodus which disrupts the underlying justification for the tidy division between economic migrants and asylum seekers. “Less than 10% of them have said they moved for economic reasons, while more than 90% have experienced torture, violence and inhumane, degrading detention”, Barbieri adds. “Despite this fact, the number of migrants receiving a rejection to their demands for international protection is constantly going up. In 2016, 62% of requests have been rejected”, he explains. “This is because the rigid dichotomy between refugees and economic migrants is based on a design which is no longer up to providing an accurate image of a complex reality.”

According to Flavia Calò, who heads up the MEDU team in Sicily, there is a further problem for migrants who have experienced trauma in recounting their journey to the Territorial Commission, the body charged with judging requests for asylum. “Sometimes the questions put by the Commission place people in real difficulty” she explain. “Not everyone manages to talk about everything that's happened to them. In torture cases, there's often a feeling of shame. Work has to be done on building relations of trust via psychological support, but most of the time this simply doesn't happen.”

Among the accounts reported in the map there is one provided by Ibra, who tells of his journey from Niger to Libya: “I left on a truck with more than 100 people. There was food and animals inside with us”, he explains. “During the voyage we went through various check points and were beaten. When you're in the hands of the traffickers, you have no choice, you don't know what might happen to you.” One part of the map is dedicated to women's stories: the majority of them have been victims of sexual violence and human trafficking. (ec)

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

Translation by Richard Braude