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[ 07. Mar 2009 ]

Lampedusa - the landings restart and the island resists.

Detention Centre in Lampedusa, February 2009

They have failed and are defending themselves with censorship and intimidation. Article by Fulvio Vassallo Paleologo, University of Palermo

 

Lampedusa has disappeared from the mainstream media and the political / media regime continues to promote the mission of its hierarchy and its police, in Tunisia, Libya and Nigeria, to demonstrate the effectiveness of bilateral agreements and the rigor of their "policies against illegal immigration". They are certain in this way to continue to multiply electoral consensus, by first distributing artful alarmism, and then proposing false remedies, to a public manipulated by the major TV channels.

Thus the explosive situation in Lampedusa was created on purpose. It was produced by chaotic decrees signed by Maroni at the end of January to transform the centers, which could not even qualify as reception centers, (the old Loran Naval base) into CIE centres for identification and expulsion, then converting the CPSA centres for first aid and reception temporarily into CIE centers (i.e. The Contrada Imbriacola structure). In the end, on the 18th February a fire destroyed the structure and also the reception system that had been painstakingly built up during the last two years.

They wanted to stop all the migrants who came to that point of transfer on that strip of land in the middle of the Channel of Sicily and even put a stop to the asylum procedures. The Territorial Commission (in charge of deciding asylum requests) , was forced for a few weeks to undertake an improvised mission from Trapani to Lampedusa. This mission had to be stopped in the face of being taken before the Court of Justice for obvious violation of EC legislation relating to asylum and international protection.

Now, after the burning of the reception centre which had been hurriedly turned into a center for identification and expulsion, the situation in Lampedusa is being peddled by the government as "a return to normality". The fire was sparked by the desperation of immigrants locked up for months without any legitimate authorisation for this detention, but certainly not by a few parliamentary visits that were only able to discover the inhumane detention conditions while basic safety regulations continue to be violated. But for clarity we are still waiting for the outcome of several investigations launched by the Agrigento Public Prosecutor.

Meanwhile, on the eve of the visit of EU Commissioner Barrot, scheduled for 13th March 13, the island continues to be manned by agents in riot gear, the only customers this season for the hoteliers and restaurateurs of a Lampedusa abandoned by tourists. Perhaps when Barrot finally arrives, they will manage to show him an empty center. This has happened before when official visits have been announced too far in advance. The living proof of abuses committed in the last few weeks will be missing. It will be less easy to make the traces of those people disappear from the legal proceedings which have nevertheless been started in various Italian courts.

The truth about illegal immigration in the Channel of Sicily is different, and does not suit speculators in the big business derived from "policies to combat illegal immigration." These solid alliances are based on the concrete arguments of international finance, rather than on overcoming ancient enmities. Intimidation has been used to hide the truth, for example by labelling humanitarian workers and parliamentary representatives, who have visited (or tried to visit) the detention centres on Lampedusa as troublemakers. Intimidation, such as when the Libyan government representatives were allowed to attack the journalists who had tried to draw back the veil of lies that covered the Treaty of friendship between Italy and Libya, which had been ratified in the dark by the Italian Parliament. This personal attack was received by some publications without even granting their journalists the right to reply.

The truth resides in the facts that relentlessly unveil the lies and election promises. As soon as the weather improves the truth will be expressed in the bodies of men, women and children who nevertheless reach the coast of Sicily and then disappear, swallowed by a police system that prevents even contact with family members and lawyers. This is too inconvenient for security professionals who now have to demonstrate the success of their plans. The truth surfaces in a few rare articles in the inside pages such as in the Corriere della Sera, 3 March 2009. In the first two months of this year 2,120 migrants have already arrived in Sicily, compared to 1,650 last year. Just in Porto Empedocle over six hundred migrants have arrived during the last week, the same number as for the whole of 2008. Congratulations Minister Maroni. Do not forget that many are asylum seekers who it will not be possible to expell in any way, even if representatives of the countries of origin are sent inside a CIE, as has been done in Lampedusa during the last few weeks.

And on some occasions it was preferable to send the migrants who left Libya northwards, past Lampedusa, while yet another scene was being played out between Berlusconi and Gaddafi, during the hugs, exchanges of gifts and declarations of solidarity. And again, on the evening of the 3rd of March a boat with about sixty migrants on board was sighted 54 miles south of Lampedusa, by a helicopter, stationed on the Naval ship Sirio which was patrolling the Channel of Sicily. Finally that night the boat was rescued by the Navy and the migrants were taken to Lampedusa. 86 "all non EC from the Maghreb", as reported by the press, were transferred to the CIE identification and expulsion centre Contrada Imbriacola, still half destroyed by the fire on the 18th February " with the aim of their forced repatriation." However another 171 immigrants, including 27 women and a baby, landed on Lampedusa in the morning of the 4th of February, with a boat that reached the coasts of Lampedusa, despite the edicts of Maroni and the hugs between Berlusconi and Gaddafi. Now there are more than 500 people in the Contrada Imbriacola centre in spite of the fact that the structure is partially unusable and lacks the logistical and administrative requirements necessary to be considered a CIE. Clearly reception behind bars, prohibited by all international conventions, has returned.

These migrants managed to reach Lampedusa because the weather was more favourable than it had been for a long time. And what if sea conditions deteriorate? And what will happen when there is no time to accompany the boats laden with migrants across hundreds of miles of open sea to Porto Empedocle. What will happen then?

At least we are sure that our Navy will continue, as before, to place the duty to save human life at sea before the requirements of the government’s image, which would like to show its ability to stop the departures from Libya, "closing" the route to Lampedusa. Indeed "closing" the whole island of Lampedusa and turning it into a prison. They continue to turn the Mediterranean into a sea of death; a marine graveyard.

No that route is still open, as shown by the recent landings, right on the island of Lampedusa, while the Interior Minister had promised to block the departures from Libya. A promise that fortunately no one will ever achieve. Nor will any of the six patrol boats assigned to the Libyans serve any purpose, not even to save lives at sea, given the contents of the operational protocol signed between Italy and Libya in December 2007.

The route you would like to seal with "joint patrols" is the only route of escape from the Libyan hell, the only means of salvation for those seeking asylum or international protection, and also for the many economic migrants who must leave their country due to the international economic crisis that is becoming a domestic economic disaster. Men, women and children are forced by the lack of legal entry channels into being exploited twice, first by the traffickers and then, upon arrival in Italy, by businessmen, using the fear produced by the clandestine situation, and feeding the businesses of those criminal organizations everyone says they want to fight.

This article was published frist on 04. Mar 2009 in :: meltingpot.org in italian and :: translated by Chris. B.