Fortress Europe’s Revolving Doors

The image which comes to mind so often at the moment
is that of a hotel’s revolving door, the kind in which children play endlessly,
and when they do finally emerge from all the spinning end up back where they
started, but with a dizzy head.

For migrants, it’s the same thing but with dramatic
consequences: in the moment in which they’re saved by a merchant vessel, a navy
ship or volunteers, migrants step into this revolving door, but as soon as they
touch Italian soil they begin to understand that it is no game, and that the
door will set them down where they started, but in a worse state.

In the last week more than 1,000 migrants have arrived
in Sicily via various disembarkings at Lampedusa, Augusta and Catania. The initial
situation in this moment is the total lack of any attention for the people
involved, and the entire submission to the political choices of Europe, choices
which institutions are carrying out with illegal and inhumane practices.

The sea continues to drown human beings who we, such
great Europeans, sacrifice without shedding a tear, including for the latest
migrant to have arrived dead at Catania in yesterday’s boat. These deaths don’t
make us angry anymore, not even the news that arrives from the Greek and
Turkish coasts along with the images of children who continue to die from cold and hardship.

The illegal activities are carried out in the ports
and Hotspots in which migrants are identified based solely on their
nationality, without any legal information, and with questionnaires often
already pre-filled out, ready for signing. We can also add to this the scarce
presence of humanitarian organisations, done so that the police and Frontex can
act freely, working undisturbed and distributing notices of deferred rejection.
This is what’s been happening in the officially established of Lampedusa and
Trapani, and in those joining them like Pozzallo.

Yesterday was the first recorded arrival for this year
at the port of Catania: 245 people, including 22 women, a minor, and 58
unaccompanied minors arrived on the Coast Guard vessel Dattilo. There was also
a cadaver on board. The nationalities were: Ivory Coast, Senegal, Guinea,Guinea
Bissau, Ethiopia, Ghana, Gambia, Cameroon, Nigeria, Mali, Liberia, Morocco and Eritrea.
From the news that we have received, all have been transferred to Puglia and to
the CARA of Mineo, save for 17 Moroccans who have been given notices of
deferred rejection.

Yesterday at Lampedusa more than 50 notices of
rejection have been given to the migrants who arrived at the island on January
11th, of whom around 200 Eritreans present are still protesting
against giving their fingerprints.

On the heels of these illegal practices founded on a
document deprived of any juridical basis, such as the Road map, there is also
the inhumane practice of leaving migrants in the street without any help, and
with an order to reach the airport of Fiumicino in Rome, in order to return to
their home country within seven days. This inhumane practice now includes,
since October and up to today, more than 300 instances of rejection emanating
from the Agrigento police station. This figure is certainly an underestimation,
as it includes only those of whom we have been made aware of because, in one
way or another, we have tracked them down.

More than 50 of the recently rejected migrants have
been sleeping in Aragona, where the police left them. Aragona is a small town,
not even very near to the Agrigento train station. You can read inhumanity even
into these gestures, beyond the words of some functionary or other: “They
didn’t even need to come here.” In Aragona there are, luckily, some people who
have acted to ensure they didn’t die from cold and have given them something to
eat. Early yesterday morning the migrants set off to get to the station in
Agrigento, many to continue their journey. Through yesterday night (Saturday) a
parish branch of Caritas and some lay members of the Comboni mission in
Agrigento put up thirty people. A functionary from the Agrigento police
station, let an UNHCR worker know that the request for international protection
would have to wait till Monday. Beyond. As well as the volunteers who were
trying to take care of the migrants in these hours, some lawyers also turned up
to help with the presentation of the requests.

The goal which this system is trying to achieve is
breaking down these people, psychologically damaging them in the extreme,
forcing them to surrender to the will of Fortress Europe. On January 14th
various associations for the protection of the rights of migrants met with
Frontex officials at the Catania police station, which since July has had its
seat of operations in the city. The meeting confirmed all the concerns
regarding the critical issues which we, along with other associations, have
denounced for months, relating to the Hotspot system, the deferred rejections,
the illegal detentions and the lack of any juridical basis for these practices.
One aspect which came out quite clearly from the meeting is the desire to go
ahead with the forced taking of fingerprints.

In relation to this it is enough simply to make note
of the actions of the 200 Eritreans at Lampedusa who for the passed two months
have been refusing for their finger prints to be taken. The seven young men who
have been identified by the forces of law and order as the leaders of this
protest have (against their will) been put on a ferry bound for Porto Empedocle
and from there taken to the new Hotspot at Milo, where they continued to
protest for a day. But afterwards, in one way or another, they have given their
fingerprints and been transferred by the coach company Salemi to a CAS, so as
to be finally transferred to the HUB at Villa Sikania. Back to the starting
point of the revolving doors, but with finger prints taken and their own
migration project no longer attainable.

We do not know what methods were used for the taking
of fingerprints, but is is clear that there was use of psychological violence.
An exemplary lesson for those who lead protests, so as to demolish every
resistance and send a signal to those still at Lampedusa who have not given
their fingerprints: “Even your leaders have fallen.”

But this abandonment and the illegitimate practices
are also being perpetrated in other institutions which concern migrants,
institutions which function to hinder the labours of so many workers, creating
situation which bring a friend to write the following words: “The task of
remaining in the NONSENSE of these institutional systems in the end takes me
back to the image of a boat at the mercy of the Mediterranean’s will…
indecipherable… the rules, beyond being bigoted and absurd, I would add are
contradictory, are violators of the vulnerable, with neither mercy nor ‘ifs’,
are racist. All of this, unfortunately, is LEGALISED!! And then we are
scandalised and surprised that asylum seekers run away as soon as they arrive,
without taking of shower or eating, obviously its always the fault of the
traffickers… Today we have this excuse – I want to see what we come up with

Alberto Biondo

Borderline Sicilia Onlus

Translation: Richard Braude