We are still unprepared

An exodus of men, women and children fleeing war, violence, threats and extreme poverty. The rapid worsening of the situation in Libya has literally forced thousands of people to embark towards the Italian coasts during the last days. In addition to the attacks and the brutal violence about which we hear from the media, migrants themselves tell about continuous threats and abuses inside and outside Libyan prisons, with increasingly ferocious attitudes from those who organize the journeys by sea – facilitated by our inhuman laws by and by a European Union which is increasingly short-sighted.
This is told by words as well as by the signs on the bodies of those who, fortunately, manage to arrive in Italy, as reported by the Msf team stationed in Pozzallo that is continuously and constantly in contact with migrants who just disembarked and transit through the CPSA* in town. http://www.askanews.it/regioni/sicilia/msf-segni-di-violenze-sui-migranti-giunti-a-pozzallo_711237458.htm.
We talk of about 2.164 migrants rescued in the Canal of Sicily only in the last four days (Thursday-Sunday 15.02), succoured by different vessels from 13 divers boats at various distances from the Libyan shores.
A total of about 5.700 persons have arrived from the first of January 2015** http://www.euronews.com/2015/02/17/3800-migrants-flee-libyas-rising-danger-since-friday/ to whom other arrivals from February 16 and 17 are added to.
Indeed, the situation is extremely chaotic and heterogeneous already from the moment of first aid. After the further tragedy of the last days, in which over 300 persons lost their lives at sea, it seems that some rescue-crafts even went as far as 50 miles from the Libyan coast. At this distance was also a patrol boat of the Italian Coast Guard that was attacked by four armed men on Sunday afternoon, who reclaimed and obtained the release of the vessel after the migrants had changed boat, as told by one of the doctors on board. These constitute rescue operations in desperate situations with extensive logistical limits, without big ships that are able to succour hundreds of migrants and ensure them the first aid that is necessary, if not even indispensable, during the transhipment.
The many dead for frostbite and hypothermia have taken away any doubts left on the inadequacy of certain rescue-boats to ensure the safe arrival of migrants rescued in precarious conditions, like the Coast Guard patrol boats with a capacity for 60 people. And this leads to the congestion of the first possible landing place after the rescue operations at sea, which is Lampedusa. The CPSA of the Island, which has been open during the emergency situation, hosted 800 people for days, who have later been transferred via sea or with low cost flights. The survivors of the last tragedy remained on the Island!
With critical sanitary conditions, only a military vessel or the transit of a merchant vessel allow an adequate transshipment. Meanwhile, the arrivals on Lampedusa do not stop and the number of migrants hosted by the primary care and initial reception centre of Contrada Imbriacola has reached 1200 http://www.agenzia.redattoresociale.it/Notiziario/Articolo/478519/Lampedusa-centro-d-accoglienza-al-collasso-Trasferire-i-piu-vulnerabili, who are still waiting for transfer. A situation that has definitely reached its limit – an unmanageable overcrowding and a promiscuity that does not even spare those regarded as “vulnerable” such as pregnant women, the sick and minors. Also the mayor of the Island, Giusi Nicolini, acknowledges the shameful situation: “The incredible thing is”, she says, “that we always find ourselves unprepared. It already happened during the Arab Spring, and ending Mare Nostrum while the Libyan crisis was worsening was not a good idea. We hope that it resumes as soon as possible south of Lampedusa in order to save possibly the highest number of people and also help Lampedusa”. The danger of Isis? “ What happened in Paris – the mayor continues – teaches us that the problem is not the distance and that also being far away does not give protection. But to me the problem on Lampedusa does not seem to be that.” http://www.rainews.it/dl/rainews/articoli/Immigrazione-il-centro-di-Lampedusa-al-collasso-nicolini-sindaco-sempre-impreparati-4421f8ad-65b0-4f7c-98cc-912578387ef7.html

Unfortunately, the situation is not any better on the oriental coasts of Sicily. The port of Pozzallo, in the province of Ragusa, registered three landings for a total of over 500 migrants between Sunday and Monday. Also here the CPSA* near the port, that has re-opened shortly and has an official capacity of maximum 180 persons, has hosted the 275 migrants who arrived Sunday morning. Then it has been promptly empted in order to welcome the 200 and more who arrived the next day. Because of delays in the transfers, during the last landing on Monday migrants had to wait hours in the roadstead before a tug transshipped them to the pier. Besides all this, the last transfers towards Crotone, the CARA*** of Mineo and other structures outside the province seem to be quite fast, although the risk of a strong congestion because of continuing landings remains just around the corner, considering the definitely more chaotic situation of landings without Mare Nostrum. And the difficulty to ensure adequate first aid, medical as well as legal, obviously considerably increases given these high numbers.
Instead, other 284 migrants arrived on Sunday night at the port of Augusta. Among them there were also 24 unaccompanied minors, most of them Somalis, and 25 women. After spending the night at the camp of the port, the minors have been transferred together with the women to the centres “La Madonnnina” of Mascalucia and “Zagare” of Melilli, whereas the men have been sent to Siracusa, where fortunately there is still no preoccupying overcrowding.
On February 16, 186 migrants arrived in Trapani on board of two vessels that departed from the Libyan shores and which were rescued by a Maltese merchant vessel. http://trapani.blogsicilia.it/salvati-al-largo-di-tripoli-186-migranti-sbarcano-a-trapani/287385/

A completely different destination had, on the contrary, the 648 migrants who landed today at Porto Empedocle. The tent structure within the harbour of Agrigento reopened, but functions only as a place of first identification and transit, since the refugees have already been transferred today to Piemonte, Lombardia and Veneto. 80 of them, of Moroccan, Tunisian or Algerian origins, were sent to the CIE**** of Caltanissetta or to the nearby offices of the police headquarter, where they are temporarily detained before immediate repatriation to a home country that they maybe have already forgotten. Once they reached Sicily, the transfer machinery seems to have been set into motion, although irregularly and still too slow for understanding whether it is able to work on the long run. But how many are able to land and to what price? How many remain clung to Lampedusa in a situation of extreme discomfort and destabilization? How many can be rescued and brought alive to the nearest centres? During these days still too many fundamental and unavoidable questions remained unanswered – too many are the situations in which fundamental rights have been guaranteed only partially, for short time lapses and to those who were more fortunate.

Lucia Borghi
Alberto Biondo
Borderline Sicilia Onlus

Translation: Chiara Guccione

* CPSA – Centro di primo soccorso e accoglienza: Primary care and initial reception centre
** 3.528 persons arrived in Italy via sea in January 2015. http://www.ilgiornale.it/news/cronache/fallimento-triton-pi-sbarchi-che-mare-nostrum-1092278.html
*** CARA – Centro di accoglienza per richiedenti asilo: Reception centre for asylum seekers
**** CIE – Centro di Identificazione ed Espulsione: Detention centre