Freitag, 4. November 2016

Hard to Accommodate: Lampedusa

There are 850 migrants stuck in the Hotspot of Contrada Imbriacola, inside a (partly uninhabitable) structure which could take around 250, at most 300 people. On Lampedusa, away from eyes and hearts, anything can happen, including locking up women and children with acute problems inside a Hotspot for months at a time, without any appropriate divisions by age and gender, in violation of every law on the protection of the vulnerable, illegal detention in an off-limits centre where civil society and NGOs are blocked from entering into contact with those inside.

The legitimate appeal to have daily information on the situation of those in the Hotspot, made to political and institutional actors by civil society organisations on the island – those who are engaged on the front line to provide dignity to those detained for months – has never been heard. Over the Summer period, the whole media kept quiet about the constant arrivals at Lampedusa, probably to put a break on the tour operators' unease who, despite 2016 having been sold out for months, they continue to complain about the lack of earnings due to the island's supposedly damaged image.

They keep quiet about the fact that pregnant women and new born children, or people with serious health problems continue to arrive on the island, the latter taken immediately to the island's clinic, and then flown by helicopter to the hospitals in Palermo. In the past few days, a young woman died on the island from a heart attack caused by the serious burns on her body following her journey across the Canal of Sicily. She is simply the latest victim in a system of assassination which spares no one, to whom no one will provide a name for the tombstone in Lampedusa's cemetery and who will not be inserted into the count of those who died at sea.

On Saturday October 29th, at 8.30am, there was another landing in which 425 people arrived accompanied by the Coast Guard's 300 Class motorboat. Recovered during the evening of the 28th, they travelled at sea through strong wind and rain. At the port of Favaloro they were expected, among others, by volunteers from the Lampedusa Solidarity Forum (Forum Lampedusa Solidale) who provided them with water, fruit juice, snacks and hypothermic blankets. Among those rescued there were around forty young women, some of them with children, originally from Nigeria. The rest of the refugees were from Congo and Senegal, a few from Guinea, Togo and Bangladesh, and one man from Syria. They seemed in not too bad a condition, although obviously hard tested by the journey.

After a long wait at the quay, they were transferred to the Hotspot, where the numbers and conditions continue to make for a inhumane situation. Since their arrival there are now 850 people housed there, without any appropriate divisions based on gender and age. Some of the men are forced to sleep on foam mattresses in the centre's courtyard.

Special treatment is reserved for the North Africans who, picked out by sight during their stay at the Hotspot, are identified and sent back to their countries. Last week alone at least 15 Tunisians were deported, the same people who had created problems in the centre through protests and complaints. They were put on an airplane with their wrists bound with cable ties, to be sent back to Tunisia like criminals, after having stopped over in Palermo. And following close behind them, an army of policemen to stop any attempt of escape, and ensuring that the “packages” reached their destination.

The other North Africans (26 Moroccans and 3 Algerians) were rejected by the Agrigento police station after having arrived at Porto Empedocle on the ferry.

In all, by the next day the latestmassacre took place off the Libyan coast, and 29 survivors arrived at Lampedusa from the shipwreck. It seems that two vessels left near Tripoli, holding around 300 people, which means that 239 disappeared/died. Twelve dead bodies were recovered. Among the survivors, the majority are from Guinea, one of whom was badly burnt and urgently transferred to the medical clinic. Many of the others were too tired to stay on their feet, and all were clearly upset and traumatised. As someone present said, once again at Lampedusa one counts the dead and attempts to console the living.

Alberto Biondo
Borderline Sicilia

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

Translation by Richard Braude