Cries of pain, indistinct voices calling for help, uninterrupted crying, more calls for help, shouting and wailing without end. And then silence. And the question is: what can I do? On the other side of the phone there were men, women, children… Whatever the reply to the question is, the result is that we sent them to the Libyans, we sent them to their deaths, thans to the policy of closing the ports, thanks to the shameless accusations made of the NGOs, in violation of fundamental human rights. All European government are responsable for these murders, even if they are now taking place in a deafening silence. This is at least one form of responsability they cannot deny!
It is unacceptable that millions of Euros are wasted in Italy for hunting down street vendors on the beach – followed by selfies with the inflatable parrots that have been seized (dangerous weapons it seems) – but leaves the slavers and exploiters of agricultural labourers free. It is simply shameful that people continue to listen with indifference (or worse, with interest) to the lies spouted by the latest Minister in order to distract from the real problems of this country on the edge. This takes the place of raging in the face of a government that takes the easy line, colluding with human traffickers, providing them with motor boats (at a total cost of €2.5 billion), boats that cannot be used to rescue peoople at sea, but only to bring people back to the Libyan hell and legitimise an inexistent military force (the Libyan Coast Guard), a bullying, arrogant body with a presumed superiority typical to Fascism.
On the other hand, no one is interested if someone drowns during Summer – despite the latest report from Amnesty International that the number of deaths is rising in a total media and institutional silence – or if someone dies on our streets or in the countryside. Fundamentally these are not people for the system in which we live.
The government s engaged in fighting the small and the invisible, anoucning dictats to the press in order to hide the truth about the constant and daily arrival of boats that our huge system of walls does not see and does not want to see. For the most part these are vessels leaving from Tunisia, that then arrive at Lampedusa or along the coasts of Trapani and Syracuse. People then remain for long periods of time in the Hotspots, even up to 15 days, as happened at Pozzallo, or after weeks in the Lampedusa hotspot get taken to the Trapani one, recently transformed into a detention centre.*
After the landing on July 15th at Pozzallo and the triumphant message from the government that the migrants would be dispersed throughout Europe, the passengers remain stuck in the centre in the province of Ragusa, including women and children, while awaiting a relocation program which will probably never happen, just as the European-wide relocation program failed the last time.
The government propaganda hides the fact that the Tunisian who have arrived in recent months have been deported through a system that is both
inadequate and illegal (around 70 people every week with planes leaving two times a week from Palermo). The remaining Tunisians – who are blocked from accessing international protection through a Ministerial note – are then left in Italy with a rejection notice*, left to join the great mass of the homeless and irregular, a condition that suits exploitation in the fields and, more generally, suits our economy. They become invisible, voiceless and therefore easily blackmailed up to the point of slavery, ready for Campobello di Mazara or Foggia, in order to fill up the ghettos that host the work force for the coming harvest.
This is the business and there is no political will to block it, other than occasionally through some magistrate who initiates investigations such as that into the Essequadro cooperative based in Florence (which has set up roots in Sicily as well), investigated for the labour exploitation of minors. And migrants are synonymous with a 360-degree business, as confirmed by the trande of how people are dispersed through the hostels. The initial reception centres* (in which people are only meant to remain for a few weeks) are full while the second-level reception centres (given over to categories of vulnerabiity and provided with adequate services) remain empty with the blessing of local councils and prefectures as well as international organisations who work in collaboration with the Ministry of the Interior.
While a business built on the backs of migrants and the weakest subjects continues to expand, smaller reception organisations are closing their doors (especially in the provinces of Trapani and Agrigento), small cooperatives bought out by the larger ones, handing over their buildings, staff and young residents to an oligopoly, both in terms of economic and political power. And in this way, the small businesses engaged in good practices of reception leave competent and professional staff at the door, often substituted by imprepared workers, with a consequent lowering of the standards of hosting. In asbence of systematic checks, the isolation of many centres facilitates the expansion of illegal practices by some of the managing bodies. In our monitoring trips over recent weeks we have come across some centres for minors in the provinces of Palermo and Trapani where there was not even a single staff member present; the young residents told us that the staff only come if there’s a necessity, such as to bring food or other tasks that can’t be delayed. It seems that there isn’t even a trace anymore of projects for orientation in society and towards work.
Borrowing the words of a friend, we underline that the fifth commandment should be declined thus: “Do not kill and do not let die.” “Leaving people to die at sea, at borders, in Libyan concentration camps, at work, on the streets is MURDER.” (Father Domenico Guarino).
* Detention centre = Centro di permanenza per il rimpatrio (CPR)
* Rejection notice = foglio di frispengimento
* Initial reception centre = centri di prima accoglienza
Project “OpenEurope” – Oxfam Italia, Diaconia Valdese, Borderline Sicilia Onlus
Translation by Richard Braude