Ende Juni 2005 besuchte eine Delegation der Konföderalen Fraktion der Vereinten Europäischen Linken/Nordische Grüne Linke (GUE/NGL) im Europäischen Parlament das Auffanglager für Flüchtlinge auf Lampedusa, zu Italien gehörende Mittelmeerinsel zwischen Tunesien und Malta.
Über diese Reise liegt jetzt ein erster Bericht (auf Englisch) vor, der erschreckende Zustände sowohl im humanitären als auch im menschenrechtlichen Bereich in diesem Lager feststellt.
So werden die Leute oft länger als einen Monat in dem Lager festgehalten, ohne eine/n Anwält/in kontaktieren zu können, es gibt keine Dolmetscher/innen, Konsularbeamte von Drittstaaten werden zur Identitätsfeststellung hinzugezogen (was bei Asylsuchenden äußerst bedenklich ist), die Leute müssen z.T. unter freiem Himmel auf dem Fußboden schlafen, es gibt nur Salzwasserduschen und abgesehen von schlecht belüfteten Containern keinen Schatten. Hier der Bericht:
Report of the visit by the GUE-NGL delegation to the Lampedusa holding centre for migrants
On Tuesday 28 June 2005 a delegation of 12 MEPs from the GUE-NGL group, accompanied by four officials, a lawyer and representatives of NGOs devoted to defending the rights of migrants, visited the holding centre on the island of Lampedusa, south of Sicily. For some hours the delegation was able to tour the centre, accompanied at a distance by the Prefect and security police, and was able to speak to some of the migrants staying at the facility, which held 206 people on that particular day. The facility in fact consists of four prefabricated containers each of which holds around 50 beds (two rows of bunk beds).
On entering the first container, the impact was oppressive: although it was only June, the heat was suffocating, there was no ventilation, and 48 is a large number of people for one container. They kept showing us the beds: a thin, crumbling foam mattress, often without even a sheet to cover it, lying on a rigid metal grill that served as bedsprings. The migrants said they received one bottle of water a day every two people. The showers run with salt water, which with the heat and the burning sun no doubt contributes to the dreadful dermatitis from which many of the migrants at the centre are suffering. However, the sick bay is not equipped to treat this type of affliction and the number of people examined seems much lower than the number that have passed through the centre: the MEPs who were able to check the registers say that in June around half of the centre"s inmates were examined.
Those staying at the centre showed us legal documents which concerned them: some are only in Italian, others have been transcribed in English or French and only occasionally in Arabic. Some of the migrants had refused to sign them, while others explained that they had had to sign them even though they didn"t understand the contents. Some migrants maintained that since they had entered the centre, they had seen neither an interpreter, nor a lawyer or magistrate, but that this did take place a couple of days before our visit. However, many of them said they had been there for more than a month, even though their administrative detention orders gave a date a few days earlier. Yet a closer look revealed that an earlier date printed by computer (25/05/2005) had been corrected by hand (25/06/2005). Detaining a person in a centre for more than five days (and a fortiori a month) without seeing either a lawyer or a magistrate is against the law in Italy. They said that the previous night the centre was thoroughly cleaned and that four days before our arrival there were more than 900 migrants there. These were boarded onto aeroplanes but they do not know where they were taken. When we asked where 900 people slept, they said they slept out in the open, on the ground.
The containers are separated by dug up alleyways and the only open space is a tarmac area without any shade. The site is surrounded by a fence of wire mesh and a large amount of barbed wire, typical of military areas. A large gate separates the containers from the administrative area housing the offices of the centre managers. The migrants call them, with a bitter smile, the air-conditioned offices. It was there that we were received by the Prefect, chief of police, security manager and centre manager, and the officials sent by the Interior Ministry who had come here specially. It was explained to us that a 5 euro telephone card is given to each migrant every 10 days or a 3 euro telephone card every 6 days, which is not enough to call family in Africa or a lawyer. In response to pressure, a second telephone booth for calling abroad had been installed a few days earlier, but the only number that could receive calls was temporarily out of order.
Basic care (distribution of meals, water and telephone cards, any medical first aid, etc.) is provided by Misericordia a no profit organisation that exists throughout Italy by a total of nine staff working in three shifts daily. However, when we asked about the terms of the Agreement between Misericordia and the Interior Ministry, we were curtly told to address the Interior Minister"s office. This was just the first of an astonishing series of denials and referrals to the Minister that we experienced. We received a similar answer when we asked where the 900 migrants staying at the centre until a few days before our arrival had gone. They admitted that they had been boarded onto aeroplanes but they refused to tell us their destination. When we insisted, the chief of police even said that he was not told where the flights were going. We then asked to see the entry and exit registers and expulsion orders, and met with a further refusal because of privacy laws.
We then began a long discussion in an attempt to understand identification procedures and the treatment of asylum seekers. We were staggered to learn that the consular authorities of some third countries regularly take part in the summary identification procedures for the purpose of determining at least the nationality of the migrants. Our comment that it would be very dangerous for a potential asylum seeker to be identified by his own consular authorities was wasted, since we were told that lately nobody had claimed asylum. This information is in itself incredible (it would be the first centre in Italy where this does not happen) and it conflicts with the documents shown to us by the migrants themselves. Many said they came from Iraq or Palestine. We were further reassured with a guarantee that anyone expressly claiming asylum is sent to other special centres. However, no information is generally provided for migrants arriving at the centre regarding the possibilities for claiming asylum offered by Italian law; only when an explicit request is made, we were told, is the necessary information given.
The discussion became meaningless when the ministry officials denied even the most obvious truths (such as the existence of a bilateral Agreement between Italy and Libya) and maintained the existence of preposterous articles in the European Convention on Human Rights (the right of detention). The watchword was clearly denial or, when that was impossible, referral to the Minister"s office. We left the centre astonished, under the applause from the migrants, who were tightly gathered behind the gates.
At the impromptu press conference at the exit, Giusto Catania stressed in particular the make-over operation carried out by the centre managers for the delegation"s arrival (having most of the migrants disappear and trying to make the facility look more habitable); Francis Wurtz said that the situation of the migrants at the centre was unacceptable both from a legal and a humanitarian point of view; Roberto Musacchio recalled that the visit had been conducted partly referring to the European Parliament resolution last April, which criticised the collective expulsions carried out by the Italian Government; Tobias Pflueger recalled that this type of camp resulted from a proposal by the German minister Otto Schilly and that he was shocked to see the idea carried out; Vittorio Agnoletto highlighted the precarious health conditions of the facility; Miguel Portas expressed his incredulity with respect to the situation at the camp, which seemed more like a prison than a reception centre.
As we left the centre we noticed that it is located right next to Lampedusa airport and has direct private access to the runway. This is certainly a simple and discreet way of boarding migrants quickly on the C-130 military aircraft that will take them back to Africa.