Fleeing migrants. Who lands, who is returned and who loses his life at sea

In the anniversary of the 3 October carnage, it is
still dramatic the situation of who has no other choice than running away by
sea, in order to escape from bombs, survive and build his own future. Even
during the last week, the arrival of 528 migrants was recorder just on southern
Sicilian coast. 135 arrived during the night of the 30th of September in
Pozzallo harbor. Out of these 135, 118 were men, 8 were women and 8 were
children. They were rescued in international waters south from Malta by the
Greek tanker “Aegean Myth”.

Between them, there were many Syrians and
Palestinians who were received in the harbor by the Police; Frontex; by
volunteers of the Italian Red Cross (CRI); Civil Protection; doctors from the
local healthcare service (ASP); and by Doctors Without Borders (DWB).

Just during these last days a public notice from DWB
(Doctors Without Borders),try to shed light on the suspected presence of Ebola
cases among migrants. This public notice is part of an activity of
counter-information which is always more difficult, given the mystifying
tendency of some bad press ( http://www.corrierediragusa.it/articoli/attualit%C3%A0/pozzallo/27912-niente-ebola-a-pozzallo-per-i-medici-senza-frontiere.html ). The refugees were quickly boarded on
busses, which took them to the nearest CPSA, from where they are going to be
moved along with large groups of Egyptian minors, who used to live there from
the beginning of September.

That very night, evading the controls of Mare Nostrum,
a group of immigrants landed in the coastal area between Contrada Cirica in the
town of Ispica, and the district granules in Pachino, on a makeshift boat. They
are 77 in total, including 47 men, 13 women and 17 children. They come from
Afghanistan and Iraq.They were identified by police as they walked exhausted
from the trip, on the road between Pachino and Pozzallo. Subsequently, they
were escorted by the police of the CPSA Pozzallo.

316 other migrants come instead on board of the
military patrol “Cassiopeia”, in the morning of October the 1st, in
the port of Augusta. They were rescued the night before in the Ionian Sea, at
about 200 miles off Lampedusa. They traveled all on a single barge, which was
into serious danger given bad weather conditions.

We arrive at the harbor together with the operators of
Praesidium and some journalists and we join DWB doctors; law enforcement
officials; Frontex members; Red Cross and Civil Defence volunteers who are
already waiting on the platform. Many faces protrude from the top of the ship.
There are smiles among dead bodies in blacks bags and life jackets scattered on
the deck. There are Somali women with the faces framed by colored veils;
sub-Saharan boys peering the platform and many young people who raise hands and
arms in greeting. The sun is strong, even though by now it is fall, when we
head to the camp, which was set up in the harbor, together with the first
landed migrants. The police escort us. Along the way, I exchange a few words
with A., a native of Darfur, who tells me about his long journey. “We
started about 8/9 days ago from Egypt. Some of us were already on board of our
“ship” near Alexandria, waiting to reach the number to set sail. It
was a very long and hard trip. I lost track of the time, but certainly we have
been at sea for more than a week “. Many other refugees confirmed me this version,
in spite of the conclusions drawn in haste by some citizens present at the
landing, who speculated a brief journey, given the good shape of the first landed
migrants. “My journey actually began in 2008, ” says A. ” when I left
Darfur and, after a long journey, I was taken prisoner in Israel. There’s a ruthless
racism there and black immigrants are imprisoned basically just because they
exist. I have been in prison six months, after which I decided to return to Sudan.
I tried again to stay in my country, but I really could not. Every day I struggled
to survive. Thus, six months ago, I left. I was determined to embark for Italy.
And now I am very, very happy of having arrived.”

Many bow to kiss the hot asphalt in gratitude, rub
their hands full of earth and raise them to the sky to thank. ” We’re
alive, we’re safe,” are the first words that I gather also from a Gaza
family: “The only thing that bothers me right now is not being able to
immediately inform those who I have left at home. I want to tell everyone that
I survived”, says M., who fled in early September with his children and his
cousins. Meanwhile, we reach the camp, but unlike other times, migrants are
seated and fed on the asphalted square between the tents, where they will be
exposed to hot sun until mid-afternoon, after the initial identification
process. The operators of Praesidium begin to distribute multilingual
information brochures to provide migrants with the first explanations about
their situation. “Is it true that now not even the Syrians can move? “,
says S., a girl from Aleppo, who translates in English to all her family,
“we do not know yet where to go. We spent two years in Egypt, where my father
worked without being paid. Maybe we will stay in Italy, maybe not, but how to
choose? I would just like to go to school and my family would like to live
without fear of death, blackmail, and threats. Because this is the situation in
Egypt right now.”

The 316 landed come from Syria, Palestine, Egypt,
Iraq, Somalia, Eritrea and Sudan.Among them there are also 44 unaccompanied
minors, who are transferred in the centres of Priolo and in the former Schools
“Scuole Verdi” in via Dessiè. We go there a little later and we learn that the
centre already hosts other 115 boys. Back at the camp police operations are in
full swing, with four suspected Egyptian smugglers arrested and sent to
Cavadonna prison, and above all – as reported by the press the next day- with
the grouping of about 28 Egyptian adults awaiting immediate repatriation. This
procedure is performed in fulfillment of the umpteenth agreement signed by
Italy with the Egyptian government. A practice that speaks for itself in front
of the scars, the bare feet and especially the stories, just heard today, told
by who was able to touch the ground. “There are people who were definitely
less lucky than us”,

emphasizes Z. with a small voice, referring to a
friend who lost his life at sea months ago. “What is wrong is the
commemoration. We should not commemorate and mourn, not only. Even the
slaughters are a starting point to claim, and to act.” The next day comes as a
boomerang the news of a shipwreck off Libyan coast.

Another list of people who have not arrived, and friends of survivors who
demand from us concrete actions.

Lucia Borghi

Borderline Sicilia Onlus

by Alessandra Mancini