Lampedusa: The transfers and deportations resume, and the protests continue

In recent days we have been present at the start of a series of protests in cities across Sicily which have spread throughout Italy, which show that this system is broken, even if our politicians pretend neither to see it nor find solutions.

At Lampedusa, still on the edge of protest, after six days there are 20 people in the public park, almost all of them Sudanese on hunger strike for three days now, including a pregnant woman who even refuses medical checks. Since a few hours ago another five migrants decided to end their protest, re-entering the Hotspot in order to be identified.

The remainder of the protesters (around 40 people) returned to the centre on Wednesday evening, submitting themselves voluntarily to identification and without fear of reprisal thanks to the mediation undertaken over the past few days and other guarantees agreed with the police by the association Askavusa and by the Lampedusa Peace Forum, with contribution by Borderline Sicily, who have lent the protesters necessary legal advice and responded to the many questions which the migrants have raised in relation to their condition and to their future in Italy.

An obstacle course of traps and pitfalls awaits migrants arriving in Italy, including a group of North Africans yesterday (Tunisians, Moroccans and Egyptians). Their dreams were interrupted at Lampedusa where, after having participated in the protest of recent days, yesterday they were finally identified and transferred (with plastic cable ties strapped round their wrists) to Palermo by plane, in order to be deported. At least three Tunisians have been detained in the deportation centre (CIE) at Caltanissetta while the rest of the group remained in the airport waiting for the charter flights to Tunisia and Morocco. The Egyptians have been redirected to Catania to follow the same destiny. The recognition procedures would have been undertaken within the two airports, in the presence of officials from their respective countries of origin, signatories to bilateral agreements with Italy.

This morning the police returned to make an attempt at mediation with the group of protesters on hunger strike and refusing medical treatment. Some members of Askavusa and of the Peace Forum continue to request an end to the hunger strike, in fear for the lives of the protesters.

The ex-MP Angela Maraventano continues to protest as well, demanding the immediate closure of the Lampedusa hotspot as well as the eviction of the protesters; she has also taken up a position in the island’s public park opposite the migrants in protest, sat on a deck chair for the last four days (in office hours).

This morning the wind of the Scirocco finally fell and the ship left, allowing the transfer of a hundred people, among whom will have been some of the migrants who had joined the protest and subsequently accepted the identification process. Around 130 people probably remain within the Lampedusa Hotspot, including a group of minors who have been detained for around 20 days.

The violations of human rights and the illegitimate practices follow one after the other without pause, as with the minors at Agrigento. The money has not arrived at the centres, who have decided to bring the minors to protest in front of the Prefecture, against the late payments which arrive only after six months’ delay; this delay provokes a series of problems, including the lack of payments of workers’ salaries, as well as lack of liquidity for the purchase of basic goods for the minors, who are quite clearly the weak link in this chain, and unaware of the instability of Italian migration politics. The facts are more serious still when one remembers that Agrigento is the Italian province with the most centres for minors, and that the Prefect Morcone, during the hearing at the Commission relating to the investigation into reception centres, has claimed that the funds for minors and the SPRAR exist and are regularly transferred to the councils and Prefectures – leading us to ask exactly who is playing the dirty tricks?

The Prefect of Agrigento, who has already had much to do with the powderkeg Hotspot at Contrada Imbriacola (Lampedusa) knows that he will need to give the answers to the migrants and managers who have forced the promise of a meeting on 18 May, the last day before the dismissal of the minors (today there were 300 in the square) by the centres, and the consequent closure of the buildings.

In our juridical system, the abandonment of minors is a crime, and a very serious one at that, and this situation – together with the problems relating to the lack of named guardians – are crimes which nonetheless continue almost always with impunity.

Alberto Biondo
Borderline Sicilia

Project “OpenEurope” – Oxfam Italia, Diaconia Valdese, Borderline Sicilia Onlus

Translated by Richard Braude