Montag, 31. Oktober 2016

#Overthefortress: A Two-Month Journey from Sicily to Rome Within and Beyond the Central Mediterranean Route

Forty stops, 3,400km, one camper: join the journey and support the crowdfunder.

The #overthefortress camper departing at the Port of Igoumenitsa will land in Southern Italy for a project of investigation and independent communication side by side with migrants and groups in the area, to examine common sites and dominant narratives, and to provide space to a politics of welcoming, solidarity and civil engagement.

The journey starts on Monday October 31st from Pozzallo (province of Ragusa), including a pressconference.

A two-month journey starting in Sicily, crossing Calabria, Puglia, Basilicata, Campania and Lazio, with a final stop in Rome on 22nd December.

Throughout the journey there will be multimedia reports, live videos and a multimedia collective documentary.

Join the journey's stops with the campaign's activists (viewthe map).

For information: and +39 348 248 3727 (office) / +39 335 123 7814 (camper).

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From the end of October the #overthefortress camper will take off from Igoumenitsa towards the coast of Puglia. The #overthefortress campaign which left from Ancona and Bari last March to join the informal camp at Idomeni on the Greek-Macedonian border has been reassembled in the Sicilian port town.

Since March the situation for refugees blocked in Greece, following the agreement with Turkey and the near-total closure of the Balkan Route, has drastically worsened.

Forced to remain in government camps in dehumanising hygienic conditions, their hope of reaching another European country to find protection, or of being reunited with their families, is being stuck in a cumbersome and slow bureaucratic machine.

For Syrians, the relocation program is simply a wheel which fails to spin in the right way for many, while for those coming from other areas of war or misery even this slender thread of hope has been entirely snapped, and the choices by now are few: claim asylum in Greece and, in case of rejection, risk being deported to one's original country; or pay a trafficker, putting oneself at risk of being rejected by the “migrant hunt” at the militarised borders, or being blocked in one of the countries along the Balkan route. The situation in the country itself has also decidedly deteriorated: given the illegal detentions, forced deportations and inadequate reception system means that none of the refugees want to stay there.

The Balkan route, and Greece in particular, as we saw with our own eyes and thanks to the testimony provided over the past months, has become a huge EU laboratory for the management of migration flows. Across this vast area, in fact, an advanced model of militarisation is being enacted, as well as the externalisation of Europe's frontiers, impeding migrants' right to free movement and producing a generalised reduction in the right to asylum. The goal of all this is not only to block people's initial departure, but also to produce a narration on forced migration which reverses that of last year, which had allowed the Dublin Regulation to be re-examined and had opened up a breach in the high walls set up along the borders.

Despite the numerous accounts regarding the violation of fundamental human rights and the denunciations from the Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights, it is difficult to imagine that in the near future, without a strong political movement on a European level, the situation will loosen up, and agreements such as that with Turkey will be re-discussed, given that the Europe Union has proposed similar agreements with Afghanistan and is always more eager to sign them with other countries from which migrants are arriving.

But if the Turkish route to Europe seems closed, we know well that the other pathways – riskier still for people's lives – might open up in the following months.

[Photo by Fabian Melber]
The Mediterranean route has never ceased to be the most dangerous crossing in the world, and over the last year more than 4,000 people have fallen victim to current European policies which do not allow any secure method of reaching the continent. Even if the numbers are less than those in Greece, those arriving in Italy (around 153,000 people – source: UNHCR) have shown that the Mediterranean route is currently the only one open and, at the same time, that the migratory flow from North Africa, for a series of economic, ecological and social reasons, ought be considered structural and cannot be defined anymore as “exceptional”. Historically, Italy has been the country of arrival for this route, but for many it is simply a country of transit (in 2014, of 170,000 people who arrived, only 63,546 claimed asylum; in 2015, of 153,842 people who landed, there were 83,970 requests – source: Eurostat), has this year become a country pushed to the brink to the fact that the possibility of passing across the Northern border has been blocked.

This “new” approach in European policies which, via the Hotspots located in southern Italy, forces migrants to be identified, including through the use of force, on the one hand has recently been made worse still by the so-called 'Alfano Plan' which has established the practice of deporting people blocked at Ventimiglia and Como, above all back to the Hotspot at Taranto. On the other hand, forcing people to stay here, and the obligation to claim asylum, has shed light on the clear limits of the (already unstable) Italian reception system, strongly connected to a business logic and the maximisation of profit, while also showing a clear absence of adequate services and opportunities of social participation and work experience for migrants. This improvised, flawed system – visible above all in the forms of 'extraordinary' reception from North to South Italy – is also evident in the parts of the country where asylum seekers, and migrants in general, form a workforce deprived of its rights and exploited in the agricultural sector, which is often chosen by the large-scale distribution system of supermarkets.

At the end of October the camper of the #overthefortress solidarity campaign will land at Brindisi and spend two months crossing the regions of the Italian South. Starting in October 31st at Pozzallo in Sicily, it will move from stop to stop, meeting with and providing space to civil society groups working with migrants and struggling alongside them for their rights, while at the same time monitoring what is happening across the area, telling the stories of people who we meet, while also interweaving the accounts with positive experiences of reception, too frequently forgotten and praised far too little.

Confronted by an emergency system, the violation of human rights and a generalised inhumanity which is propagating like a kind of lethal cancer, we feel it is necessary and important to begin our journey again, so as to narrate, to denounce and to act together with those who are still not numb to our current situation.

We thank
  • all those who have helped us build the map for the route, providing us with contacts and sharing information
  • Gabriele Cipolla for the promotional video
  • Fabian Melber (photojournalist) for the kind use of his photos, and to Saverio Serravezza

Throughout the journey we will be making multimedia reports, live videos and a multimedia collective documentary.

To support the #overthefortress camper, please contribute to our crowdfunder

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

Translation by Richard Braude