Freitag, 4. November 2016

Hard to Accommodate: Trapani

Three landings in one week are too many even for Trapani, where there is no prospective for anyone who arrives, only unsurpassable walls. More than a thousand people in three landings put the Hotspot's mechanisms to the test, a centre which usually works better than the others.

More than 16,000 people have been transferred through the Milo hotspot since it opened, and the number of rejections is lower than in other Sicilian Hotspots; but when the situation is as difficult as the last landing, everything unravels in absence of real planning. The Trapani Hotspot now has no appropriate divisions between people based on age or gender, and there are now cases of rejecting Moroccan citizens and deporting Tunisians and Egyptians. At Milo, as in all the other Sicilian Hotspots, there are illegal practices, migrants' rights are violated, and even those with serious medical problems have been rejected.

The landing of October 27th was long, partly because the two bodies which were transferred during the operation were losing blood while at the dock, making it necessary to wait for the footbridge and section of the port to be freed up before the survivors could make their way through. Their bodies showed signs of clear violence, their gazes were either scared or fixed into the middle distance, communicating a powerlessness which one can only resolve through policies designed with people and not the economy in mind. Around 4,000 people have been killed in the Mediterranean, and there are thousands others who die in our countries.

In their usual way, the Frontex officers put pressure on the migrants to get information “useful for blocking the flows”, as they say, that is to kill more people. The fact that the number of the dead is increasing means that Frontex is doing its job well and that the agreements with Libya and Turkey are providing the promised fruit. Many people were disembarked without clothes, some wearing only pants and vest, others without even a top on, with a hypothermic blanket tied round their waist. Given that the Trapani Prefecture decided that the distribution of the basic kits (which also include clothes) would happen within the Hotspot, the migrants who landed were given food and slippers but remained half-naked at the port for 4 or 5 hours before being taken to Milo.

Speaking with some of the new arrivals, it is clear that the situation in Libya is always worsening. The accounts are so raw that they are often difficult to listen to. “I think that these people arrive with a burden of pain which is difficult for us to understand, and it's a very alien kind of pain, quite different from our own, one which we don't know how to acknowledge, even while we have a large responsibility in its end. It's as if, while this all happens in front of our very eyes, by which I mean we're standing in front of people who have gone through this deep suffering, we can only grasp an inkling of it, because to try and understand it better (for those who want to try), means also risking being hurt oneself in the process, and the society in which we live doesn't provide us with tools to deal with pain, it tells us to just rid ourselves of it, to turn away from that which isn't agreeable for us, and it doesn't matter if that convenience doesn't work for other people. And then, I'm just exhausted of seeing victims! It's as if there's a silent acceptance, on our part, that for every attempt at arrival – on the journey, at the landing – there will be a certain percentage of human sacrifice. By now people don't even count the numbers. We go on saying that these are people, not numbers – but I think that for some they are not even numbers of human beings anymore.”

This is the outburst provided by so many of the volunteers at the port. The difficulty of making the welcoming of migrants into a duty and not a task has had the consequence that in the last round of landings Sicilian police stations have rejected more than 200 people, most of them Moroccans and Egyptians but also some Algerians and a Tunisian for whom there were not any spaces left on the airplanes used for deportations.

A system like this which had difficulties in receiving simply creates invisible people, like those who are currently being exploited at Campobello di Mazara. 1400 people are amassed in a shanty town, employed in the olive harvest for the oil which makes our profits. A system which creates people with a rejection letter in their hand or a denial to their claim for asylum makes them available for the landowners, who impose a kind of slavery on them, the slavery of our own times.

The Italian reception system does not work because there is no will to make it work. And the horrendous management continues to generate protest from those lodged within it. The most recent episode comes from one of the Extraordinary Reception Centres (CAS*) in Salemi, Villa Mokarta, as many of the refused asylum seekers have not received any response from the Italian justice system, and after 2 years of waiting have found themselves on the street without being provided with any further process of social involvement. They too are the invisible people in a system which malfunctions, which pushes even those with a good heart to the edge, those who want to make something of their lives, but who instead find even the little rights they have refused, just as, for example, in the “Sataru” CAS* in Castellammare del Golfo, where the managing body passed round a note to the residents saying that they will no longer provide pocket money nor shampoo until they receive the funds from the Prefecture. As so many migrants who are suffering the hardships of the Sicilian reception system confirm, in this centre there isn't even mediation or psychological assistance any more.

Alberto Biondo
Borderline Sicilia

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

*CAS = Centro di Accoglienza Straordinario (Extraordinary Reception Centre)

Translation by Richard Braude