They’re Banned From Celebrating

Do you remember Jamel, Loti, Nashreddine, Nassim, Rabah and Ramsi?

Those who have always fought against criminal laws and arbitrary detention in this country surely do remember them. Between the night of 28th and 29th December 1999, six people died by fire in the detention centre of Serrano Vulpitta in Trapani, the CPT – the previous version of today’s CPRs.* Different names, different times, but brought together through a common political act of closing the borders. Woe be to those who do or say something different from the desires of consumer society, a society that is also consuming our families, increasingly closed up in their fears, and consumes lives in Libya, in the desert, at sea – all in the name of a fake well-being. Today, without any shame or embarrassment, we have even arrived at denying ships full of rescued persons from landing on our shores, leaving them out at sea as a symbol of our now wayward humanity.

Infact, the 33 people saved by the Sea Watch can’t celebrate, for the mission committed the sin of not letting history’s refuse die at sea: men, women and children who we sacrificed a long time ago. The ship is at the mercy of the Mediterranean’s cold and waves since Christmas and we haven’t heard the Church excommunicate any of those who have committed these crimes.

We don’t want the 2,216 people who have died along the central Mediterranean route to celebrate – the number of dead in 2018 according to the estimates (accidentally) released by the IMO.* It’s annoying to hear all of this during the holidays, but people are on the move due to the 378 conflicts across the world, the 186 violent crises, the 20 wars of high intensity, caused by the sale of arms by our own civilised countries, distributed throughout the world to export democracy, to the music of death.

‘S.’ can’t celebrate, a young man, not even 18 years of age, who has been struggling against death for 10 days after being hit by a car while he was on his bicycle. ‘S’ was hosted in a centre for minors in Marsala, and since the security decree came in he was scared that he wouldn’t make it, and this is why he spent morning till night searching for work without break. He was scared of losing everything for which he had suffered in Libya. ‘S’ is in hospital but the doctors haven’t given his brother and the centre’s manager any hope, while the mayor of Marsala, his legal guardian, still hadn’t found the time to go and visit him.

‘K’, another minor, also isn’t celebrating Christmas because the same inhuman law has pushed him to leave his friends and relations, the plans he was making for a real future. Titleholder of a permit to stay for humanitarian reasons, he’ll turn 18 on January 1st 2019 and like so many people will lose his place in the reception system. And so he has decided to find a different destination, becoming invisible in some other country.

Many people have voluntarily left their centres in recent months or received notices of eviction* particularly in the period between the introduction of the security decree and its conversion into law, when some of the prefectures played with the confusion, putting people on the street. Around 43,000 people lost their right to reception this year, with peaks from August to December. To give an example, in Palermo the number has passed from 1,750 people in reception to 1,300 with a rise in the period between the decree and the law. The expulsions from centres have more than doubled (from 560 in 2017 to 1,250 in 2018). In Trapani instead the number in reception has passed from 1,600 to 900 in the period between July and December.

Those who surely have something to celebrate are the mafia, the exploiters, the traffickers who these laws help, because these invisible people do not disappear as some would like, but remain in out country or elsewhere in Europe, joining the “indigenous” poor, to the great pleasure of those who are enjoying and gaining consensus through a war between the poor. The UNHCR estimates that in 2020 there will be around 700,000 invisible people in Italy to use, exploit, humiliate and on whom to base propaganda.

Despite the propaganda, it is not the case that no one is arriving in Italy. On 28 December, the Coast Guard brough 43 Tunisians to Trapani, all of them placed in Sicily’s detention centre. This year there have been 241 phantom arrivals, including around 8,000 people. All under silence, the cameras turned off, to help the propaganda machine.

In the end, the reception system has degenerated into chaos: many managing bodies feel legitimised in continually lowering the quality of services, and so food becomes more rotten, not to speak of the clothes and all the rest. Pocket money has now become optional, as is the case with the people “hosted” in the CAS* of the cooperative ‘Pozzo di Giacobbe’ in Palermo who haven’t received any pocket money for 5 months – in many cases the only source of support for themselves and their families. Or there are the cooperatives that are closing centres for minors with the excuse of technical necessities and suddenly move all the minors from one city to another without any care for their own individual projects, without any legal guardian to stand for them, as happened in the past few days with the cooperative ‘Azione Sociale’, that moved the young men from the province of Catania (where they suddenly closed one centre) to the province of Palermo (thus keeping open only one centre, saving on staff and costs).

Other violations have been noted at the city registration offices: the number of reports of illegal practices in relation to the negation of services to all migrants are now countless, the new rules relating to asylum seekers in the security law being interpreted in an extremely expansive manner. These situations are now daily occurrences in Palermo, Castelvetrano, Marsala and many other places.

There are many people who have not had a reason to celebrate in 2018, a year that has been disastrous for human rights. But we still have the chance of turning the tables, if we count on the desire for a future of those who are arriving, people who never lose hope – and thus we wish everyone a 2019 full of future, rights and justice.


Alberto Biondo
Borderline Sicila


*CPT = Centro di permanenza temporanea
*CPR = Centro di permanenza per il rimpatrio
*IMO = International Migration Office
*notice of eviction = revoche di accoglienza
*CAS = Centro di accoglienza straordinaria


Project “OpenEurope” – Oxfam Italia, Diaconia Valdese, Borderline Sicilia Onlus

Translation by Richard Braude