The time of rights. New arrivals and more deaths of migrants at sea.

At least ten dead and more than thirty lost at sea. In the lasts days, with the slight, brief improvement in weather conditions, came the umpteenth and sadly predictable announcement of the more deaths of migrants. (see GdS)
The rescue operations, coordinated by the Italian coast guard, took place on March 4th around 50 nautical miles from the Libyan coast, and in just three days assisted around 1000 people who were making the journey by rubber vessels and boats. They were then landed at the ports of Augusta, Pozzallo and Porto Empedocle, together with 94 migrants most recently rescued and temporarily left at Lampedusa. (see ANSA)

Many were soon transferred from eastern Sicily to north Italy, as many of the centres of first reception were practically at the point of collapse. But not everyone is so ‘lucky’, given that the majority of refugees who have just arrived are accommodated at the Umberto I centre in Syracuse, at the Pala Nebiolo at Messina and at the CPSA* at Pozzallo, facilities which are already beyond their maximum capacity, and where the migrants during the next days will encounter queues and an interminable period of waiting for the first identification operations and their next relocations.

And above all, political and representative institutions of different forms have been commenting in sterile, unpolemical tones on the difficulties of managing this phenomenon on behalf of the Italian government, apparently the most abandoned in Europe, anticipating May’s discussion of the European Agenda on migration. Among those who put forward the most drastic proposals for border control, such as an end to all naval traffic from Libya (see Huffingtonpost) there is an isolated minority who continue to push for a radical reorganisation of European and Italian politics with regards to immigration, and the urgency of opening a humanitarian corridor, underlining something which, in these worrying times, many simply do not consider: that these massacres at sea have to be stopped immediately. Can those who are risking death really be made to wait any longer?

The time, the temporality, of law and rescues are not responding in an adequate way to what is needed: delays in the rescue operations lead frequently to tragedy; the time of reception, which invoke the concept of emergency in order to justify intolerable situations; the time of administrative and bureaucratic procedure, which imprisons refugees in limbo for months and years without any ability to make decisions or plans about their future. All of this occurs in absolute silence, created out of the din of a media which diverts attention away from the central question, with blows and ripostes continually exchanged by the relevant institutions, which always pushes to the background the real matter of understanding how to end this situation. People who work closely with migrants highlight the increasingly critical conditions of survivors who manage to arrive here (see Corriere di Ragusa), in a period when the situation in Libya is only recalled in order to be instrumentalised for the justification of military intervention.

It has always been easy to play out our indifference in front of the voiceless, but is it the same in front of the corpses, ever most numerous, or the mangled bodies which arrive by sea? Decisively, it is not. Now our only hope lies in a time of rights.

Lucia Borghi
Borderline Sicilia Onlus

Translation: Richard Braude

*CPSA – Centro di Soccorso e prima Accoglienza: Primary care and initial reception centre