NEWSLETTER Migrantsicily – March 2012
- Refoulement of refugees to Tunisia. A video-inquiry from the Shousha refugee camp
- Boat arrivals in Lampedusa start up again as do transfers to Pozzallo. Data on the arrivals and the missing
- The search for the missing Tunisian migrants. Mothers attack the Italian Embassy in Tunis
- Group of Nigerian Asylum Seekers protest at Palma di Montechiaro. Tensions also mounting in the Province of Ragusa
- Witness accounts of the Milo inferno (CIE: Immigration Detention Centre in Trapani)
- Observatory on the violation of the right to a defence
REFOULEMENT OF REFUGEES TO TUNISIA. A VIDEO- INQUIRY FROM THE SHOUSHA REFUGEE CAMP
On the evening of the 17th March, a French fishing boat with a Tunisian crew rescued 74 shipwrecked migrants stranded between Malta and Lampedusa. The boat was forced to return to Tunisia as neither the Italian or Maltese authorities would allow the boat to dock in their respective ports.The migrants were taken to Sfax in Tunisia and from there transferred to the refugee camp in Shousha, south Tunisia, near the Lybian border. The situation in this camp, which is run by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and has been open for over a year, is said to be critical. In February 2012 a video inquiry was made reporting on the situation:
L’UNHCR ha reagito subito e a negato le dichiarazioni dei profughi:
BOAT ARRIVALS IN LAMPEDUSA START UP AGAIN AS DO TRANSFERS TO POZZALLO. DATA ON THE ARRIVALS AND THE MISSING.
The return of the good weather has brought with it the return of boats carrying migrants to Lampedusa, and there continue to be deaths at sea. But on Lampedusa, the Contrada Imbriacola Centre remains closed and the port is still being declared unsafe. In the last few weeks, the migrants who have managed to arrive at Lampedusa have been transferred to the Pozzallo CSPA (First Reception Centre) to await repartriation. The situation has not been without tension:
On the night of 28th March, a small boat arrived in Lampedusa with 36 Tunisians aboard, including one woman and three minors. Contrary to what has been widely reported in the press, the Agrigento Police Headquarters expressly ordered the men to spend the night sleeping outside near the port. Any civil organisations on the island were forbidden from providing any help or assistance. Nonetheless, as soon as the boat docked, members of the cooperative Lampedusa Accoglienza intervened and supplied the migrants with dry clothes. It was only the following day that the migrants were taken to the Cala Creta residence and not until the day after that they were transferred to the Pozzallo Centre.
In the next couple of days the CSPA (First Reception Centre) on Lampedusa will re-open. A team are currently working on doing up the premises which weren’t involved in the fires of September 2011. The centre will be able to take in up to 300 migrants.
On the 29th March 2012, the Minister for the Interior published the figures for migrants arriving in Italy so far this year. Those for Lampedusa reveal that 573 migrants have arrived (410 men, 104 women, 59 minors). This compares with 18,672 in 2011.
Since 1994, at least 6,226 people are known to have died in the Sicily Canal, along the various routes from Lybia (from Zuwarah, Tripoli, Misratah), Tunisia (from Sousse, Chebba and Mahdia) and Egypt (Alessandria) to the islands of Lampedusa, Pantelleria and Malta and the south-east coast of Sicily (journeys have also been made from Egypt and Turkey to Calabria). 2011 was by far the worst year with at least 1,822 people reported dead or missing. With 25,000 migrants arriving from Tunisia and the same amount from Lybia, 2011 saw 334 deaths on the Tunisian routes and 1,488 on the Lybian routes.
THE SEARCH FOR THE MISSING TUNIISIAN MIGRANTS. MOTHERS ATTACK THE ITALIAN EMBASSY IN TUNIS
In Tunisia, the families who have been waiting anxiously for months for news of their young missing relatives inform us that although many days have passed since the first 70 sets of fingerprints arrived in Italy, the Minister of the Interior has yet to publish the results which were expected on 29th March, stating instead that they will be released at a later date, as yet to be established. During the two marches carried out contemporarily in Rome and Tunis on 30th March, both the Tunisian and Italian Embassies closed their doors, refusing to see any members of the delegation representing the families of the missing migrants.
Federica Sossi, representative from the women’s organisation Da una sponda all’altra: vita che contano (From one shore to another: lives that count), told us that on being unable to obtain access to the Tunisian Embassy during the protests in Rome, a group had requested and been granted permission to have a meeting with Prefetto Pria, Head of the Department of Civil Liberties and Immigration. Pria confirmed that on 22nd March, during Cacellieri (the Minister of the Interior)’s visit to Tunis, the local government had given the Italian authorities “documentation”. Despite the insistence of the group, Pria did not elaborate or give details as to what this “documentation” contained. The meeting concluded with Pria promising to organise a meeting in the following days between the group and the chief of the Immigration Border Police in order to obtain details on the development of the search for the missing Tunisians.
In the same afternoon in Tunisia, the group of mothers of the missing Tunisians attacked the Embassy demanding answers to the questions which for months have been addressed to the Italian and Tunisian Authorities. This is the link of the protest which took place on 30th March in Tunis: http://www.storiemigranti.org/spip.php?article1035
GROUP OF NIGERIAN ASYLUM SEEKERS PROTEST AT PALMA DI MONTECHIARO. TENSIONS ALSO MOUNTING IN THE PROVINCE OF RAGUSA.
On 7th March, a group of Nigerian asylum seekers, staying in the Reception Centre in Palma di Montechiaro (opened with the Civil Protection’s Emergency funding) began protesting as a result of the exasperation they felt over the excessive amount of time it is taking to process their asylum claims and also at the ongoing uncertainty of their situation. Borderline Sicilia and the Sicilian section of ASGI (Associazione Studi Giuridici sull’Immigrazione- Association for Judicial Studies on Immigration) issued the following press release:
When the tensions had died down, the Civil Protection closed the centre at the request of the police headquarters of Agrigento. The 17 asylum seekers were sent on to other centres in Gela, Acireale and Piazza Armerina. The Centre was run by a company which had many years’ experience working with the reception of immigrants, especially vulnerable subjects. The episode has triggered new controls in other centres of the Province, which has led to other structures being closed.
In the province of Ragusa in the last few days, accounts similar to those which happened at Palma di Montechiaro have been reported. Two Chadian asylum seekers, who were staying in an emergency centre in Chiaramonte Gulfi, were arrested in Ragusa, accused of criminal damage, after having been thrown out of various centres in the province. The actions of the two young men were again a result of the long time span required to process claims for international protection.
These two episodes go to confirm that acting in the name of “emergency” produces poor management within the reception system.
WITNESS ACCOUNTS OF THE MILO INFERNO (CIE: IMMIGRATION DETENTION CENTRE IN TRAPANI)
“We are treated worse than pigs here. We can’t cope anymore,” a young migrant locked up in the Milo CIE (Immigration Detention Centre) in the Trapani countryside denounces the Centre. For the last three days, 240 migrants, the majority from the Maghreb Region, have been carrying out a thirst, hunger and medicine strike as a means of defending their dignity. “Here we are only animals. They put 12 of us in cells which are meant for 6. Some of us have to sleep on the floor.” And it would also seem, according to the account of the migrant, that some also eat on the dirty floors. The situation he describes is alarming, “Here inside there are epileptics, diabetics and people with mental health problems. How can they be kept in such conditions? We are people.” Heavy criticism is also aimed at the forces of order, “They have beaten us with batons on many occasions when they have been escape attempts. Sometimes people have even ended up in hospital with fractured bones.” And the tensions are not dying down. “The climate is tense. The police are applying an extreme type of repatriation politics- each stage is very quick. If the refusal for application arrives, you are boarded onto a plane within 15 days and sent home.” On the morning of the 22nd March, a Tunisian was transferred to a Palermo hospital to receive specialist maxillofacial treatment for a wound to his right eye. The circumstances surrounding the situation remain unclear.
The hunger and thirst strikes have since been suspended for a week. Yet the detainees of Milo are threatening to start them up again due to the lack of answers provided by the Authorities who were sent in to deal with the protests.
OBSERVATORY ON THE VIOLATION OF THE RIGHT TO A DEFENCE
As mentioned last month, we would like to draw your attention to a measure (following on from that of 2009) introduced by the Catania Bar Council on the 7th February 2012, which suspended all proceedings for applications for legal aid by asylum seekers. The Council presented queries about the suitability of the documents necessary in such proceedings to the President of the Court.
It would appear evident that such a measure is not considered legal: firstly, because the Council should deliberate each individual case and not the “collective situation”; secondly, the Consolidated Law on legal expenses does not recognise suspension as a valid measure. Furthermore, such a measure is in no way contestable. Finally, such a measure is also unjustified on the grounds that it is now standard procedure that the document administered by the police headquarters serves as an identity document for asylum seekers who escape from their homeland and arrive in Europe without documents.
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