Detention center left empty after migrants tear the gates down. Humanitarian situation very serious. Large protests by residents. (updated on 26. Jan 2009)
Nearly 2000 persons were crammed in a centre that can barely contain 850, after a series of arrivals of boats from the African coast. People were locked behind gates and many were sleeping out in the rain because of overcrowding. The Interior Minister Maroni refused to move them to other structures operating in Italy, insisting they must be processed and eventually deported directly from Lampedusa, the small island south of Sicily that is the first point of arrival for many migrants, especially since increased immigration controls at the Spansh border have changed the migration routes. According to the blog Fortress Europe: "At least 1,502 migrants have died at the gates of EU in 2008. The figures decreased by 23% compared to 2007, but not in Sicily, where the number of the victims rose from 556 in 2007 to 642 in 2008, coherently with an increase of 80% of the arrivals in Lampedusa."
The 'centre of first reception' (Cpa) in Lampedusa also functions as a 'centre of identification and expulsion' (Cie). Further, following the 'emergency' caused by new arrivals, the minister Maroni ordered the opening of a new Cie, against which both the residents and the migrants are protesting, although for different reasons. Yesterday the residents stopped a bus with 110 migrants directed to the new Cie and held a demonstration against the new Cie and the whole situation in Lampedusa, with some 4000 people taking part. Many migrants who had escaped from the existing centre joined the demo. Today the residents are on general strike. There seem to be no hostility against the migrants and many residents have been feeding them after the mass escapes, that led to the centre being left empty this morning at dawn, after the remaining migrants in the centre tore the gates down. 700 migrants had already escaped yesterday. The total number of migrants who have escaped is estimated to be 1300. The police and carabinieri stood by as the migrants marched towards the Town Hall shouting 'Freedom' and 'Please help us'. The migrants would like to be left free to continue their jouney towards Italy and Europe, where many have families. They feel they haven't been treated with dignity and humanity.
Amnesty International, Save The Children, Cir, Asgi, Medicines Sans Frontieres and other associations had already denounced the situation in Lampedusa and the possibility of serious human rights violations.
The UNHCR had also expressed their concern, since many of the men women and children confined in Lampedusa are refugees.
Berlusconi has reassured the residents of Lampedusa that 'the situation is under control'.
I am awaiting to get more recent news but it seems that some of the escaped migrants have gone back to the centre for food and shelter.
Solidarity to the migrants in Lampedusa!
This article was published first @ :: indymedia.org.uk and :: roma.indymedia.org.
Update 26. Jan 2009 + Video from inside
Most immigrants have gone back to the 'reception' centre - where else can they go? But they are now free to come and go as they please.
The minister Roberto Maroni still clings to his policies to detain everybody on the island until they can get deported and to go ahead wiith transforming the old NATO base Loran in a new deportation centre. The struggle continues. The most striking fact is that the local residents and the migrants have come together in solidarity. They have been eating and drinking together and having a jolly good time, though there are fears that too much drink could lead to incidents, but everything has run very smooth so far, despite the presence of more than 1000 migrants out and about!
The days of protest went without incidents, apart from a couple of incidents on Satruday caused by the police attacking demonstators. An ambulance drove into the crowd and a cop kicked a local resident for no apparent reasons. In both cases the people reacted and the cops took the occasion to attack them. A 16 years old local boy was injuried. Berlusconi is blaming the Left for 'instigating' the migrants - as they had sent a delegation that criticized the centre.
Hungerstrikers protest against deportation
On Jan 26, 2008, corporate media reported that women in the camp started with a hungerstrike. They protest against the planed deportation by the italian government: 1.200 from the 1.300 migrants in Lampedusa should be deported during the following days.
On Tuesday, residents from Lapedusa arrange a strike against the immigration policy from the Berlusconi government. They protest as well against the Sie protestieren gegen die von der Regierung intended construction of a second reception camp for identifying the migrants.
Video inside the so-called 'centre of first reception': :: Se questo è un uomo