The truth about the Hotspot policy – violations and illegal actions on Lampedusa island

In the last couple of weeks, dozens of people coming from Mali, Gambia, Pakistan, Somalia, Eritrea and Nigeria, have arrived in Palermo as well as in Catania and other Sicilian cities. In their hands a decree of deportation, which orders them to leave Italy within seven days via Rome Fiumincino airport. All these people first arrived in Lampedusa, where they have been brought after having been intercepted in the Mediterranean Sea.

Those migrants were not given the right to ask for international protection, although they have been in contact with the UNHCR.

They said that they have been informed about the possibility to ask for asylum, but were not really given an opportunity to do so.

Furthermore, they said they were forced to sign a form without being able to understand its actual meaning, as it was written in an unknown language. (Although the remark “the concerned refused to sign” was printed on each form).

Later on, still according to what they told, personal data (e.g. photographes) have been recorded; afterwards they were sent to Porto Empedocle by ferryboats. Even before leaving that ferryboat again, the group was split up according to still unknown criteria.

Finally, these people were left alone at Agrigento train station – or at other small train stations around Agrigento. The only document they received from migration offices was the above-mentioned decree of deportation.

Those decrees are seen as unlawful and even unconstitutional, according the attorneys of a supporting network from Sicily, so that the latter already started plaints against the use of these forms.

Meanwhile, hundreds of migrants, most of which are Eritreans, have been kept illegally for weeks on Lampedusa now, as they refuse to give their fingerprints. Not because they would have anything to hide, but because they want to join their friends and families, staying in other EU member states, rather than to be stuck in Italy due to the Dublin 3 regulations. Other promises of eventual reallocations into other European states are rather ambiguous, as they were seldom set into reality, unless government see favourable propagandistic effects in such measures.

As Europe rhetorically welcomes refugees, on the other hand, still follows their politics of war against migration from the Southern hemisphere.

These first consequences of realising the so-called politics of hotspots, one of which is set in Lampedusa, are violations of unpublished fundamental human rights. Yet Lampedusa still functions as a experimental place for migration policies.

Most recently, forms with multiple choice questions are being used (the so called „foglio notizie“). It depends on these forms who will be able to ask for asylum. Although the final decision is made by usually unknown European or Italian officers.

By this means, the right for seeking asylum is being abolished: A right which anyone can make use of, not depending on where one comes from or whichever nationality one human being may have. As only people coming from or being citizens of some specific states have real chances to obtain a right to stay legally within the EU. The others have to hide and live clandestinity. This new system is being constructed, only within few days and based only on the criteria of nationality of asylum-seekers. It is a clear governmental policy which keeps granted asylum right at lower rates, so that more and more people, next to those who are already clandestinely in Europe, have to stay here without legal protection against being removed, thus sharing this same destiny. More often, the asylum applications are rejected immediately due to lack of justification.

That is a crucial point: After a period of chaotic re-assessment of european migration policy, facing major developments in recent years¸ this division into “approved” and “rejected” refugees is used to “hide away” refugees; thus numbers of invisible, victims of marginalization and exploitation are increasing. As the social and sanitarian emergencies become visible, a public outcry will be the consequence of this illicit and irresponsible decisions.

Whereas the only real emergency, also given the decreased number of arrivals via the mediterranean route, the decreasing number of arrivals from countries (since 2008), which traditionally had high numbers of emigration, together with all those dead people at the European borders, are due to this current system of illegality and injustice.

I conclude by stating that the only rational, coherent and law-abiding migration policy consists of opening all legal ways of entry, thus avoiding human trafficking and victims at the European borders. A policy which would allow those people to enter Europe in safety, without being forced to hide away.

We urge therefore:

  • that any migrant receives access to ask for International protection anywhere in Italy
  • that all decrees of deportation which were due to the hotspot policy in Lampedusa are withdrawn
  • that the hotspot centre in Lampedusa will be closed immediately; furthermore any plans to re-open other “hotspots”, which have not any legal foundation, are withdrawn, unless decisions by the European Commission and the European Council do not have mind to abolish structurally the right of asylum and to violate the rights of all migrants;
  • that the procedure of rejecting one’s asylum application immediately due to “lack of justification” has to stop.
  • that no violence during the procedure of finger-printing is authorized, and that the Italian goverment makes effort to abolish all Dublin regulation as a whole.
  • that all treaties, regulating the re-admissions into transit countries and countries of origin are immediately withdrawn, given that Italy and the European Union negotiated those treaties with dictators and executioners; given that those treaties often have one single purpose: Justifying collective deportations.

First signers: Borderline Sicilia Onlus, Centro salesiano Santa Chiara di Palermo, Circolo Arci Porco Rosso di Palermo, Ciss – Cooperazione Internazionale Sud Sud, Comitato Antirazzista Cobremas (Palermo), Comitato NoMuos/NoSigonella, Forum Antirazzista di Palermo, La città Felice(Ct) – Le città vicine, L’Altro Diritto Sicilia, Laici Missionari Comboniani, Palermo Senza Frontiere, Rete Antirazzista Catanese

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Translation by David Hofstetter