Eritreans: placards and slogans on Lampedusa: “We are refugees, not fingerprints”

Redattore Sociale – Around 250 people protested this morning, mainly Eritreans who have been on the island for at least two weeks and have been held in the CPSA* of Contrada Imbriacola**. Many are on hunger strike.
ROME – Around 250 people held a political rally in the streets of Lampedusa, holding signs and chanting slogans including: “Freedom, freedom!” The majority of the group are Eritrean citizens who have been on the island for at least two weeks – the final group having arrived on December 4th. They are being held in the CPSA* at Contrada Imbriacola**, a couple of kilometers from the port. According to local sources the protest was caused by the issuing of an order yesterday to take everyone’s fingerprints.

“We have to be able to move” and “we are refugees, not fingerprints” were written across the placards. Minors, women, men and whole families came to the head office of the municipality in the town’s historical centre this morning. Afterwards, they returned to the CPSA* without interrupting everyday life on the island. In addition to the rally, several protesters went on hunger strike, which they are willing to end only once they are allowed to continue on their journey, as explained by some social workers present. This will be hard given the recent appeals by Europe for a rigorous identification of all migrants arriving via Italy, including by force if necessary. Paradoxically, all people who are then identified as ‘economic refugees’ by the newly established identification process are allowed to leave the island, for they then receive a notification of deferred rejection, which they have to obey in the course of seven days.
Another cause of frustration is the length of stay in the CPSA*. The researcher Martina Tazzioli, herself present on the island, reports that some of the migrants “say that they have been in the center since November 5th. Yet according to the law, a stay cannot exceed 72 hours.” Particularly vulnerable people such as victims of human trafficking or torture, minors, and pregnant women have to be accommodated in a different initial reception center. Among the protesters there were also several Sudanese and Somali citizens who, although they do not have to be moved, want to avoid the identification process to be able to reach other countries without the risk of being sent back to Italy in accordance with the Dublin agreement.
(Giacomo Zandonini)

* CPSA – Centro di Primo Soccorso e Accoglienza: Center for initial aid and receptionaccomodation
** Contrada Imbriacola: Initial reception center for refugees on Lampedusa

Translation: Annika Schadewaldt