Turn The Computer Off and The Brain On

A government that puts people in the cross-hairs is inhumane and violent.

A form of Europe that claims to be open but in fact is killing people is symptomatic of our society’s decay. The migrant manhunt continues, sparing no one, not even children.

One of the recent cruel acts carried out by Europe was the death of fifteen migrants off the Libyan coast, who did not die from drowning like many others but died from the slow agony of hunger and thirst, without even being swallowed up by the waves of the sea. Another 15 people were victims of this system: the survivors spoke of the horror are they were spotted and recaptured by the Libyan Coast Guard.

And while the sea continues to throw countless bodies onto the Libyan beaches as reported by the Red Crescent, the association Watch The Med continues in vain to flag up vessels in distress that are escaping the Libyan hell and elsewhere, vessels that are lost at sea because no one pays them any attention. The most recent order of this kind was a vessel with 54 people on board, including 4 women, of whom no one has any news since January 13th.

Libya continues to be a site of the deprivation of freedoms and arbitrary detention in official and non-official centres alike, as well as torture, sexual violence, kidnapping, blackmailing, forced labour and executions. And these aren’t the words of bleeding heart liberals but the results of a UN report on Libya, a Libya that we continue to finance and support, as well as doing business along with other European governments.

Inhumane policies have eliminated all of the groups that save lives and acted as uncomfortable witnesses to what is happening at sea. The dirty war on the NGOs, brought ahead even with the assistance of public prosecutors, has nevertheless experiences another judicial take-down with the annulling by the court of Re-examination for Catania, of the order of detention by the Prosecutor of Catania in relation to the events through which Doctors Without Borders (MSF) were accused of the illegal disposal of waste materal.

The most recent chapter opened in this shameful farce of criminalising the NGOs has been the blocking of the Open Arms ship by the Spanish government.

And unfortunately it’s not only at see that the horrors are taking place: yesterday the death of 15 Syrian children was reported, who were living in some of the 66 refugee camps between Syria and Lebanon, now buried by the snow and icy storms. 15 children dead from cold after the war had already destroyed their houses, cities, everything – a war in which the West is involved.

A friend of ours, a 17-year-old Gambian man, one of those who managed to arrive alive, died here in Italy, after being hit by a stolen car at Christmas. He was simply trying to carry out his own migratory project. Alanso died after around a month of agony, in the hospital of Villa Sofia in Palermo. As the manager of his hostel told us at the hospital morgue, “he was a fragile young man with a generous soul, a big heart.. Nice, friendly, kind… He knew what gratitude meant and how to show it, even in the smallest of gestures.” He didn’t manage to realise his dream of being a goal-keeper. He once told the manager of the centre, “Loretta, one day I’ll be a great goal-keeper and everyone will call me Alanso, not S., my surname, but Alanso because there’s only one Alanso.. and my number won’t be 1 or 11, but 21, yeah.. my t-shirt wil say ALANSO 21.”

Aside from the security decree, now law, the other attack on people’s rights is the new regulation on tendering contracts for reception services, established by the Ministry of the Interior. This is effectively a gift to the reception business, designed to create containers of 50 to 300 people or more. The managing bodies have to host the asylum seekers, giving them food and water, without any added services (hours for translation and legal assistance has been reduced to a ridiculous level). The budget is less than before, between €21 and €26, and obviously those who win the tenders will be those presenting the most advantageous offers. Cut-cost lives.

The annexed documents for the new regulation are only concerned with money – there’s no attention given to services for accompanying and integration. The so-called “government of change” has created a fund for the big cooperatives who will have an advantage in creating parking lots for people – such as the CARA in Mineo – where they can cover the costs through scale. The objective is to be able to earn more through people, given that this government has decided to exploit migrants not only for propaganda but also to assist some cooperatives that have no problem with shedding their trained workers. And all this will also have an effect on transparency: it will be still more difficult to monitor such centres in an independent way.

But if 49 people were blocked for 19 days on an icy sea, what can we really expect now from European politics? We need to wake up from out stupor, we need to stop sitting behind keyboards and playing the politicians’ game, people who are enjoying our loss of grip on reality. We need to live our daily lives through looking each other in the eyes, re-acquiring our lost humanity and discussing that which is truly fundamental to us, our children and our society’s future.

Alberto Biondo
Borderline Sicilia


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

Translation by Richard Braude