The CPSA at Pozzallo becomes a Hotspot.

On Tuesday it was officially announced that the CPSA at Pozzallo has been transformed into a Hotspot, the third in Sicily. Inside, the Italian police will be supported by officials from Frontex, EASO and EUROPOL, while the management of the services is still being left to the cooperative Azione Sociale, as the a winner of the three-year contract, the tendering competition of which has been open for some months, has yet to chosen. The Hotspots are the result of European political decisions made in the remit of the relocation agreements, and are presented as a definitive arrangement for differentiating between economic migrants and asylum seekers.
This is a practice which has alarmed monitoring organisations, who over the past few months have denounced the arbitrary distinctions made by the police between who receives the right to protection and who does not, based exclusively on nationality, leading to hundreds of collective rejections, beyond every guarantee of human rights. The strong concern expressed by various non-governmental organisations regarding the discriminating practices recently adopted in diverse parts of Sicily, including the CPSA at Pozzallo, has led tot he Ministry of the Interior, on January 8, adopting a circular distributed to prefects and police chiefs on the “Guarantees and methods of access to asylum procedures”. The circular reiterates the subject’s right to request protection, and the guarantees of information, legal protection and translation which belong to every asylum seeker. While the new circular states that “to not be able to present a demand for international protection constitutes a clear violation of law”, this does not explain how, only a few days ago – January 14 and 15, to be precise – dozens of migrants in the province of Agrigento were provided with notices of deferred rejection, without having had the minimal guarantee of protection, nor made aware of what would happen to them consequentially.
Yesterday afternoon Pozzallo’s first disembarking of 2016 took place, with 280 migrants brought to the dock by the navy ship ‘Spica’. Many of the refugees were of Pakistani, Moroccan and Tunisian nationalities, among whom were some women, all attended to by an increased number of police and functionaries from Frontex, EASO and EUROPOL. The first aid operations were undertaken by the Red Cross and the Protezione Civile (the local police force), while health screening was left to ASP doctors. There were also various representative present from the UNHCR, IOM, Save the Children and Terres des Hommes, who followed the disembarking operations so as to then undertake their own work in the new Hotspot, where we hope that they act according to their mandate. We know, in fact, that at Augusta, for example, at the point of disembarking the IOM is allowed to undertake their own activities of providing information only after the identification operations, when the migrants have already been screened for the notices mentioned above, which frequently manifests in hundreds of deferred rejections. This confirms the claims of those who find themselves on the street, trying to understand why they have been abandoned by the Italian state.
The stages of the operations are extremely slow; the gathering of information by law forces and the functionaries of the agencies present began as oon as the boat reached the port, followed by the minutiae of the search procedures – manual and with a metal detector – to which every migrant is subjected before being allowed to get on a bus headed for the centre. The form of control is justified via recourse to the protection of public security, but carried out with the energy of someone who has already made an assumption of criminality, certainly not in the presence of citizens with equal rights and dignity, many of whom, as we know, are fleeing from situations of conflict, undertaking a terrible journey. But one knows that frequently it is not the concrete facts but prejudices which govern common thinking. Thus each person who arrives from the sea finds themselves with the long task of having to defend and claim their dignity.
The migrants who landed yesterday were all temporarily transferred to the new Hotspot, and we do not know how this will shape their future. The hope is that the protection of rights and freedoms of each person does not remain an exception by daily practice, as our own laws are meant to guarantee.
During that day news arrived of another 968 people, including one body, recovered from the sea.
Lucia BorghiBorderline Sicilia Onlus

Translation: Richard Braude