The hope is that the wind will change

Article first published on July 28, 2021

We ask ourselves a question and we ask you too: if a few days ago it had been a Moroccan to shoot an Italian, in your opinion by how many hours of programmes, specials, interviews, racist commentators and newspaper headlines would have we been inundated?

Instead, the press has acted as a sounding board for the defensive arguments of the party allies of the councillor who goes around Voghera carrying a gun and who killed a man (for which the trial for the crime of existing immediately began) and for the embarrassing silence of other politicians. Meanwhile, like a black tide, racism continues to mount: cowardly keyboard lions, able to spit hatred at every opportunity and to fuel violence, dictate the line of the political debate in this country.

A poor and particularly violent political class that continues, in the game of the parties, to share power and seats, at the expense of a people increasingly resigned to undergo all kinds of decisions, able to take to the streets only for football, the drug of our time.

It is clear that, in this desired silence, we do not talk about the center of Lampedusa that currently hosts more than 1,400 people due to the arrivals of these last days. These are 1,150 more than its capacity would permit. With the calm sea Lampedusa has seen the arrival of more than a thousand people – fortunately safe and sound – but who are crammed into an inadequate center, where the promiscuity reported so often is a practice, where children do not have special attention, where the positives are placed in a single dirty room, where besides Covid you risk other diseases, where sleep is a privilege and where having certain information is a utopia.

In the hotspot of Lampedusa, according to the news coming from some people locked inside, there are situations of particular gravity, such as those of people who told us that they do not know why they have been on the island for more than a month in a detention state. A non-place that has disappeared from the radar of journalists and reporters, a non-place that the Ministry of the Interior hides in order to be able to do what it considers most useful and appropriate, and this is simply unacceptable in a state of law.

The stress of people passing through Lampedusa is considerable, and not receiving answers or information, after risking death and being locked up in Libyan camps, is simply horrible.

Equally horrible is the situation in the CPRs*, especially in the one of Pian del Lago in Caltanissetta, where there are constant protests in the absolute silence of all concerned (media and politics), and where many Tunisians are kept in total ignorance of their future and in really precarious sanitary conditions. One of the many requests for help coming from Tunisian family members concerns people who wanted to ask for protection and who are instead transferred from quarantine ships to CPRs, if not directly to the airport.

Just as it is inhuman the treatment that people receive on another island less famous than Lampedusa but that in this period is increasingly becoming a route used by small Tunisian boats, namely Pantelleria, which is not mentioned at all. The management of arrivals in Pantelleria is totally outside a regulatory framework. There is no official center with a legal status and people are held inside a structure of the Ministry of Defence that uses a space with a capacity for about twenty people, and that instead hosts, in hot times like this, even more than a hundred, for a few days or weeks before transferring them to the facility in Trapani Milo.

People are in promiscuity, without any service, with management left in the hands of the military. In this other non-place – which is also off the official lists – it is practically impossible to have news of unaccompanied minors of 14 and 16 years sought by family members, who report that they should have arrived last week on the island. A silence that kills the mothers waiting for news.

What occupies space in the media are instead the news of the fires in the centers, which unleash the visceral hatred of commentators on the web. In Pozzallo, as in other centers, it is not the first time, but the management does not change, the lack of clarity and the violation of rights means that people rebel and that they respond with the same currency to institutional violence.

Even on Villa Sikania, one of the Covid centers in the Agrigento province, there is media silence but every now and then a few blurbs describe the mass escapes.

Even in this case, life inside the center – for many people in a state of total promiscuity – is not easy, especially when the rules are not respected. During the last escape, the group fled because, after three rounds of quarantine which lasted already more than a month, people, including many unaccompanied minors, exasperated, were dispersed first in Sicily and then in the rest of Italy. At Villa Sikania the quarantine cycle is not always of the same duration, because almost always the swabs cannot be done on the days provided for by the protocols and therefore the quarantine cycles inevitably lengthen. The dynamics are increasingly tense and difficult with a constantly full center, where quarrels between minors are the order of the day, especially between Tunisians and sub-Saharans.

All these situations increase the tension and push children to think that the facility’s operators distort the results of the swabs in order to have a full center and earn more and more, as some of them told us. An explosive situation that politics does not handle, waiting for it to burst into their hands. Then, the victims will only be a collateral problem, which hatred will erase with some fascist statements of racist politicians and militants.

The wind of hatred and fascism blows hard. It hurts, it is violent, and it reaps victims every day, and it makes sure that many mothers cannot even mourn their sons and daughters. This is the case of the murder that occurred on the night between 29 and 30 June near Lampedusa, in which 7 women died, including a pregnant woman and a 15-year-old girl. 10 missing people are still at the bottom of the sea, about 90 meters deep. They stay there because it is economically expensive to recover the bodies, and 10 mothers, 10 fathers, 10 husbands, 10 sisters will not be able to mourn their loved ones and to give them a proper burial, because this is what politics has decided: there is no profit in being human.

And in absolute silence, we continue to count the dead at sea: 57, the last victims in a shipwreck off the Libyan coast.

One of our volunteers wrote on social media: “One year ago, on 25.7.2020, Hamdi Besbes disappeared in the waters of Lampedusa. To this day there are still no traces of him, because of murderous institutions that have killed and then hidden the truth, ignoring the desperate cry of the family. Just today, one year after Hamdi’s death, a friend fighting at the border of Lampedusa tells me that there is wind and bad weather and that he hopes that those who cross the border are not overwhelmed by the sea. We hope. And together we continue to fight against this political wind that kills and overwhelms away in indifference. We have our memory that we will oppose this extermination. In this sea of violence and oblivion, we resist: Hamdi we do not forget you; we never will.”

The hope is that the wind will change, and we will continue to blow for that to happen.


Alberto Biondo
Borderline Sicilia


*CPR: Centro di permanenza per il rimpatrio – Detention and repatriation center


Translation by Cristina Tosone