Newsletter Migrantsicily – July 2012

· Boats4People in the Mediterranean
· Also this year LampedusaInFestival
· Update from Lampedusa- interview with the deputy mayor Damiano Sferlazzo
· New boat arrivals in eastern Sicily
· Reception for refugees of the North African emergency at risk: the Civil Protection recedes on commitments
· Observatory on the violation of the right to a defence: good news

Boats4People in the Mediterranean

“Stop deaths at sea- we want a free Mediterranean.” This is the slogan which has characterised the work of the organisation Boats for People. The idea was born last year during an Anti-Racist meeting in Cecina. Activist from various European and African countries participated in the event which took place at sea and on both shores of the Mediterranean. After a year of preparations, the schooner OLOFERNE set sail from Cecina. The boat is a symbol of the fight against the disasters at sea that the migrants face. It sailed towards Palermo and then onto Pantelleria and Monastir before finishing its journey in Lampedusa. Whilst in Italy, the organisation ARCI was responsible for the running of the project at sea.

The association Borderline Sicilia Onlus together with borderline-europe and the Palermo Anti-Racist Forum presented Boats for People whilst in the Sicilian Capital. Starting in May, a tightly packed programme of events, including films and debates was organised. The Oloferne arrived in Palermo on 3rd July and 2 days later the ship’s crew took part in an evening at the Oratory of Santa Chiara. The guests included migrants, activists, lawyers and family members of the missing Tunisians. A commemoration for migrants who have lost their lives at sea was held on 6th July with torches being lit up on two boats and along the seafront in Palermo.

On 7th July a group of about 80 international activists, including Sicilians, left for Tunisia in two boats to participate in events taking place in Tunis and Monastir. On the ferry they took the opportunity to speak with the passengers and explain the organisation’s objectives.

Part of the group went to the Shousha Refugee Camp (near the Lybian border) and on 13th July a meeting was held in Monastir- the location of next year’s World Social Forum.

The last stage of the Oloferne’s journey was Lampedusa. Borderline Sicilia Onlus together with the association Askavusa and a member of Migreurop organised the boat’s welcoming ceremony and also the presentation of the project “WatchTheMed” (, as well as a commemoration at the Porta d’Europa with a reading of the tragic events which have taken place in the Sicilian Channel in 2012. Flowers were thrown from the schooner and also from a Lampedusan boat.

“The voyage made by Boats4People was a great success despite the fact that the past few weeks have been marked by several tragic incidents at sea- fatal consequences of the closure of the EU border.”

The Boats4People initiative proved very useful in helping to weave a network of activists between the different shores of the Mediterranean. Furthermore, it was just the first stage of a project that will be developed and reinforced over time.

Here are the reports from Lampedusa:

Also this year LampedaInFestival

The conclusion of the Boats4People initiative coincided with the opening of the 4th edition of LampedusaInFestival.

Along with debates, meetings and book presentations, various films were shown on the island. They had been selected by the Lampedusan association Askavusa, which promoted and organized the festival. The festival’s two main categories were migration/memory and democracy. Borderline Sicilia Onlus participated together with other voluntary groups, in the running of the festival. For the first time the jury for the migration/memory category was composed almost entirely of migrants: organized by Dagmawi Yimer from Archivio delle Memorie Migranti (AMM) and run by Zakaria Mohamed, Ali Hevi Dilara, Mohamed Ba e Salvatore Billeci. The winner of this category was VERA by Francesca Melandri. It is the story of a Jewish Croat who, at the age of 15, lost her entire family. Today, at 87 years old, she lives alone and breeds horses just outside of Rome. She tells her story honestly and without resentment during the birth of a foal, a new life. The Democracy category was organised by Pietro De Rubeis from the Movimento Giovanile Lampedusa and run by Stefano Liberti, Costanza Ferrini, Maria Teresa De Sancitis e Mariangela Barbanente. The winner of this category was MINOTAWRA: SI ESPORTA CAMBIAMENTO by Kamikairy Fares, a film about the Tunisian revolution.

Updates from Lampedusa. Interview with the deputy mayor Damiano Sferlazzo

With the closure of the festival and the departure of the final few guests, new migrants began to arrive.

Unfortunately the month of July will be remembered for yet another tragedy at sea. A boat should have arrived at Lampedusa with 55 people aboard. Instead only one survivor was rescued off the coast of Tunisia.

At the beginning of the month, the Contrada Imbriacola Centre was reopened, even though the island continues to be declared an “unsafe port”. In order to obtain a greater understanding of the current situation on the island (the island’s political administration has also recently changed) we carried out an interview with Damiano Sferlazzzo, Lampedusa’s deputy mayor.

New boat arrivals in eastern Sicily

During the month of July, new boat arrivals took place on the Ragusan and Syracusan shores. The hanger in the port of Pozzallo was closed for several days to enable restructuring work to be carried out. The newly-arrived migrants were therefore taken to a nearby gym or transferred to Porto Palo di Capo Passero, where identification procedures were carried in the fish market.

Photos of the boat which arrived on 10th July in Pozzallo:

Reception for refugees of the North African emergency at risk: the Civil Protection recedes on commitments

The €500 million allocated to guarantee the necessary payments for the reception of migrants under the North African emergency, extended by decree until 31st December 2012, has yet not been made available. For many months now, some regions have been without payments for the maintenance of buildings used for reception. This has had serious consequences for many associations and cooperatives who have been covering the costs not only at the expense of their employees and their suppliers, but above all at the expense of the migrants who from one day to another risk finding themselves out on the street. Paradoxically, not even unaccompanied minors are exempt from this situation, the majority of whom are asylum seekers.

The town of Mazzarino (CL) is a partner of the SPRAR (Protection System for Asylum Seekers and Refugees) project for the reception and insertion of unaccompanied foreign minors seeking asylum which is run by the cooperative “I Girasoli”. The council wrote to the National Department of Civil Protection on 31st July asking for clarification regarding a letter sent from the manager of the cooperative to the region of Sicily on 5th July concerning costs for reception which it had already paid out even though they should have come from government allocated funds. In particular, the regional department of the Civil Protection had already made it clear that it would make payments for minors staying in the above mentioned structure for the period from the date of formalisation of form C3 (the formal application form for international protection) to the day in which the minors turn 18. Therefore the SPRAR centre of Caltanisetta (which was invited to “have another look at the entire documentation” concerning the request for refunds for the payments it had advanced over the previous months- which had in part been repaid according to the original agreement) currently finds itself in the position of not only being completely without any of the money, which up until now has always been anticipated, but also in debt- as according to the accounts of the Civil Protection, the organisation had previously received more than it was owed according to the original agreement! This is in waiver of the convention signed by all parties, which establishes Reception according to the SPRAR guidelines as the possibilty to extend the stay of minors up to 6 months after they turn 18 plus the execution of the same services which are supplied in the CARAs (Hosting Centres for Asylum Seekers) according to standard ministerial regulation. In short, it covers the entire period of the reception of minors who are seeking asylum -from the moment of their placement to the day they are discharged. It looks to be a hard battle for those like the cooperative “I Girasoli” who, on a daily basis, do all they can to offer minors seeking asylum a concrete possibility of insertion, even if this means making significant economic sacrifices to fill in the holes in the diabolic management of state funds, while the monstrous machine eats the money of the Civil Protection. It confirms the suspicion that the chaos which has already hit other regions, is about to spread to Sicily.

In the meantime the mayor of Riace has stopped the hunger strike he had recently embarked on. The mayor is known for being outspoken against the system of reception for refugees. Riace, together with other towns in Calabria, has since become an emblem of virtuous Reception for refugees.

On 25th July, the Honourable Pezzotta presented a question time to the Chamber on the problem of the asylum rejections made by the Commission for thousands of people who arrived from Lybia in 2011. Nonetheless, he did not request a concession of the permit of stay on humanitarian grounds but a programme of assisted repatriation to Lybia. The answer of the Minister Cancellieri, disturbing from many points of view, also discussed the possibility of how such a programme could be financed, referring to the allocation of the €500 million. Nonetheless, no explanation was offered as to what had happened to the €500 million or when it would be made available.

Read the article of Prof. Fulvio Vassallo Paleologo (University of Palermo).

Observatory on the violation of the right to a defence: good news

We would like to draw attention to the success of the Turin lawyer, Barbara Cattelan, who in recent months was unbeaten in the question of the jurisdictional competences of appeals against deferred refoulements at the Lampedusan border which were issued by the police headquarters of Agrigento.

It is now years that the Office of the Judge of Peace in Agrigento unanimously agrees that it can no longer deal with this issue, as the Tar Sicilia (Regional Administrative Tribunal) has also done so. The Office of the Judge of Peace had already confirmed this position when the Police Headquarters of Agrigento indicated that the ordinary court was the responsible authority for jurisdictional decisions. Following years of debate amongst immigration lawyers on the necessity and opportunity to enforce a jurisdiction regulation (ie- an appeal to establish whether it is the administrative law judge or the ordinary court who should preside over the decision) in front of the Supreme Court, and also following many attempts to obtain an immediate result with the strongest cases out of the thousands of registered and rejected appeals, Cattelan, in collaboration with Borderline Onlus Sicila, has selected a pilot case to submit to the judge of the Supreme Court.
Last week the Supreme Court, upholding the notable importance of the question posed by Cattelan, fixed a public hearing for the 23rd October in front of the United Section. The association Borderline Sicilia Onlus would like to sincerely thank everyone who fights for the recognition of human rights for all individuals without discrimination, and in particularly the lawyer Cattelan for having believed that it was possible to re-establish the state of rights.