Black Europe

The Black Europe Summer School announces its new website. This intensive two-week course, which is held each year in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, explores the contemporary circumstances of the African Diaspora and other people of color in Europe. Participants learn about the origins of Black Europe and investigate the impact of colonial legacies on policies, social organizations, and legislation today.

In addition, this is their new email address: info@blackeurope.org
and Facebook page: fb.me/BlackEuropeSummerSchool

 

For the Right to Mobility and Equal Rights for All

Toward a Coalition of Solidarity 
Contested Spaces
Today, we face a strong political and social polarisation – all over Europe and beyond – and we, once again, find ourselves at the crossroads. Right-wing, populist and racist currents grow, become louder, and more brutal. More and more authoritarian or even proto-fascist governments reinforce what the neoliberal rationale instigated twenty years ago: deterrence and exclusion through a deadly border and visa regime, the erosion and deprivation of rights, and the criminalisation of migration in combination with a regime of selective inclusion, productive of an exploitable migrant workforce. We say NO, we say ENOUGH.
We will enact our disobedience by building a new transnational alliance, an additional counter-pole based on practical solidarity. From the external borders to the inner cities, we see contested spaces and undeterred daily struggles therein. By inventing and multiplying practices of solidarity, we want to intervene, all over Europe and beyond.
Reigniting the Spark of 2015…
During 2015’s long summer of migration, the EU border regime was literally overrun and its Dublin system collapsed. Though certainly spatially and temporally limited, through their sea-crossings and the March of Hope, refugees and migrants successfully opened a corridor, from the east to the west and north. Accompanied by a huge wave of ‘welcome’, these movements produced a different reality in Europe: one of spontaneous solidarity in many cities, of no borders, no ‘smugglers’, and no criminalisation. A reality of freedom of movement from Athens to Stockholm. We will never forget these historic moments, and we will keep them alive as the inspiration and as the spark for what is possible in the future.
… and we continue in the Spirit of the Charter of Palermo
Higher fences and more illegal push-backs, dirty deals with transit countries and those of origin, hollowing out the asylum system and ongoing racist propaganda: while governments and right-wing forces escalate the roll-back of the border regime, we continue to build a counter-narrative based on our manifold counter-practices. In the spirit of the Charter of Palermo, we demand the right to mobility and an open Mediterranean space. We do not accept categories and divisions, and we want to break the link between residence status and employment contract. We stand against deportation and exploitation. We are all human, we are all equal.
Toward Corridors of Solidarity
We are active in municipalities and church groups, we belong to migrant communities, non-governmental organisations and human rights initiatives, we are lawyers, researchers and activists, we are self-organised and supporters. We all build and spread novel structures of disobedience and solidarity. From sea rescue to solidarity cities, from access to housing to medical care and fair working conditions, from legal counselling to protection against deportation: we prefigure and enact our vision of a society, in which we want to live. And we ask the civil society to join this process: to create corridors, spaces and projects of solidarity, crisscrossing and subverting all internal and external borders of Europe.
We call for safe passage, safe harbours, and safe transit to a dignified life at the places of arrival. We are all humans and we want an inclusive and open society with the right to mobility and equal rights for all.
Palermo, June 2018
Leoluca Orlando (Mayor of Palermo); Aurélie Ponthieu (Médecins Sans Frontières, Brussels); Fr. Mussie Zerai (Agenzia Habeshia Rome); Veronica Alfonsi (Proactiva Open Arms, Italy); Ignasi Calbó (“Barcelona, refuge city” programme’s Coordinator of the City Council of Barcelona); Judith Gleitze (borderline-europe); Ruben Neugebauer (Sea Watch, Berlin); Miriam Edding (WatchTheMed Alarm Phone Hamburg/Foundation :do); Fulvio Vassallo Paleologo (Associazione Diritti e Frontiere); Azza Falfoul (WatchTheMed Alarm Phone/Mediterranean Migration Movement, Tunis); Lorenzo Pezzani (Forensic Oceanography, London/Trento); Yasmine Accardo (Campagna Lasciatecientrare, Italy); Andrej Kurnik (Klub ČKZ, Ljubljana), Polona Mozetič (Second Home, Ljubljana); Maurice Stierl (WatchTheMed Alarm Phone); Kiri Santer (WatchTheMed Alarm Phone/Moving Europe, Zurich/Tunis); Davide Carnemolla (Welcome to Italy-Guide/Antiracist Network Catania); Laura Colini (Tesserae, Berlin/ EU Urbact Program); Petra Barz (Right to the City Hamburg); Hagen Kopp (WatchTheMed Alarm Phone/Solidarity City Hanau); 
 
Palermo Charter Process – Introductional remarks to the Call for Safe and Open Harbours!
On the 11th of June 2018, the Italian government closed its harbours to the NGO ship Aquarius while it was carrying more than 600 migrants rescued at sea. This dramatic and yet foreseeable decision is the culmination of years of virulent attacks against migrants and those who stand in solidarity with them, across the Mediterranean, in Europe and around the world. It is yet another expression of the intolerable violence of borders that leads to the mass dying at sea, in deserts, and within our very communities. It is yet another manifestation of the campaign of criminalisation that has led to the seizure of rescue ships, to accusations of smuggling directed against their crews as well as some of the rescued, and even to the imprisonment of human rights defenders. And it is underwritten by a ruthless deterrence policy and agreements made with dictatorial allies in Libya, Turkey, and elsewhere.
 
Several municipalities as well as non-governmental and self-organised groups active in different cities have mobilised against this state of affairs, against the crimes and atrocities committed by national governments and supranational institutions. Some of us met in Palermo in late May in order to discuss precisely the scenario of closed harbours that has now become a reality. We want to call on others to join forces and mobilise together with us, against this rising tide of oppression. 

Call for Safe and Open Harbours!
Cities of Solidarity and Refuge against the Barbarity of Racism and closed Borders
We are human rights defenders, trade unionists, precarious workers, activists, mayors, lawyers and researchers. We belong to migrant communities, non-governmental organisations, and church groups. We are self-organised groups, individuals and institutions. We live in small and big cities, in communities that welcome newcomers and find ways to live in common. We come together because we want to build and spread transnational structures of solidarity for an open society with equal rights for everybody. What brings us together is a refusal of the racist and authoritarian drift carried by many governments, national parties and movements across Europe and beyond.
Toward Transnational Structures of Solidarity – Safe Harbours Now!
We know all too well that rescue at sea is not the solution to migrants dying on their journeys to Europe. Nobody should have to risk their lives to travel somewhere. But we also know that, in the current situation, we need search and rescue missions, and we know that they depend on ‘safe harbours’, whether these are physical docklands on the coast or just inland communities offering refuge. This is why we want our cities to become safe harbours, which we define as follows, beyond the framework of existing legal definitions and arrangements: 

 1) A Safe Harbour is an open space, where people are welcomed and assisted regardless of their origins, race, gender and class. It is a place that is open to the city, where civil society actors can enter and monitor the situation.

2) A Safe Harbour is a disobedient space, where voices are heard that denounce racist agitation, any attempt to block arrivals, and any policy of deterrence.
 
3) A Safe Harbour is a space where human rights are respected, where people are not exposed to the risk of torture, persecution, or inhuman and degrading treatments.
 
4) A Safe Harbour is a space where the right to mobility is enacted, where people are granted the possibility to stay but also to move on. 
 
5) A Safe Harbour is a place where neither migrants nor those who stand in solidarity with them are criminalised – neither for driving the boat on which they travelled, nor for rescuing people in distress at sea, neither for giving migrants independent information, nor for helping them to continue their journey.
 
We want to turn our cities into spaces of inclusion, not exclusion, of refuge and sanctuary, not deterrence. We struggle for communities of welcome and against those of segregation. As a new alliance, we want to foster intra-municipal and trans-national solidarity that allows people to move freely from their first place of disembarkation to other destinations within and beyond the country where they first landed, beyond any hotspot-, Dublin- and relocation system.
 
Open the harbours now! Open the cities! End the death of migrants at sea!
 
Contact for signatures: wtm-alarm-phone@antira.info 

Black Mediterranean: ReSignifications

The University of Palermo and New York University have just finalised the programme of their conference titled ‘Black Mediterranean: ReSignifications‘ – a topic that is raising widening international interest since Alessandra Di Maio‘s first mentioning of the term (see amongst others these new publications by Ida Danewid -awarded with the Third World Quarterly Edward Said prize- and Gabriele Proglio, amongst others, as well various posts on the Black Mediterranean on these pages). The international workshop, which will take place between Palermo and Naples on 6-9 June 2018, follows a series of international conversations that are breaking new ground in the fields of African and African Diasporic art, literature, cultural theory, history, and political practice. I will present a paper there titled ‘Permeating Territories: The Mediterranean Threshold and Black African Transformations’ -based on my longitudinal engagement with the African diaspora in Italy. I’m very much looking forward to this experience! Collateral events of the MANIFESTA European Biennial of Contemporary Art, the conference will be accompanied by an exhibition of the works of an array of international artists and the African art collection of Nigerian Nobel Prize for Literature Wole Soyinka, who will open the conference.

frontera (courtesy Fernando Martí)

Self-harm

courtesy OMB

Still more news about the human rights violations internal to the Italian migrant detention system continues to reach the public. In a joint press release, the coalition of LasciateCIEntrare, Legal Team and Osservatorio Migranti Basilicata (OMB) denounce the CPR (Centro di Permanenza per il Rimpatrio) of Palazzo san Gervasio as a site of repression and abuse. On the phone with a local news site, the spokesperson of LasciateCIEntrare, Yasmine Yaya mentions the presence of some particularly vulnerable migrants who are trying to seek asylum and need urgent assistance. At the same time, the organisation denounces the high degrees of psychological stress that leads some inhabitants to purposively inflict self-harm and attempt suicide. In the afternoon of 26 April, a Syrian Kurdish citizen threatened to kill himself; while two other people, perhaps of Tunisian nationality, threatened to hang themselves in another migrant reception center. Final proof of the migrant rights violations arrived a few days later, with the unconditional release of all 42 inmates of the CPR in Palazzo. Interviewed by the same press agency, the lawyer of the OMB Angela Bitonti, confirms that she and her assistants managed to liberate these citizens because the detention measures were “illegitimate”, as they were based on an alleged social danger that did not persist (remember the migrants had been detained on presumption of having set fire to the reception center in Lampedusa). “From now on, they are asylum seekers, for whom the application of the rule of international protection applies… Many of these people should be helped,” Bitonti concludes, remembering that “we are dealing with human lives, with human beings, to whom life can not be denied.”

courtesy OMB: ‘unfortunately self-harm is common among detained migrants,’ says Yasmin Yaya of LasciateCIEntrare

Alarm Phone

courtesy Alarm Phone

The Alarm Phone project publishes its report entitled “Mediterranean Coalitions of Struggle”. It offers an overview of the situation in the three main Mediterranean regions and the developments there: of deterrence, forcible returns, and criminalisation of migrant flows. In addition, the report gives an overview of the political campaigns and struggles members of the Alarm Phone have been involved in over the past six weeks, ranging from 24/7 phone activism, symbolic actions in the Netherlands, protests with fishermen in Tunisia, rescue operations in the Central Mediterranean, counter-investigations that speak back to European attempts to criminalise non-governmental rescue, to collective commemorations in Greece.

The report can be found on the Alarm Phone website and on Facebook

Migrant abuse (cont’d)

A consortium of associations led by the Coalition for Freedom and Civil Rights (CLID), the Association for Juridical Studies on Immigration (ASGI), and Indiewatch confirms earlier findings about the systematic abuse against migrants, including children, at two locations in Sicily and Potenza that were mentioned in a previous post: Lampedusa and Palazzo San Gervasio. The report (English summary here) says migrants and asylum seekers at the two sites have been victims of human rights violations and the right to defence, as well as inhumane living conditions and violence. Specifically referring to Palazzo, ASGI notes what it calls “very serious violations of the right to defence, which impeded the migrants from being assisted by their attorneys during the confirmation hearings.” In the meantime, an attempted escape by 22 detainees from the detention center yesterday has resulted in a mass search operation by the police, resulting in the arrest fr 12 of them. Human rights organisations are worried about the increasing repression of those who remain internalised. A complete report (in Italian) about the joint visit by Campagna LasciateCIEntrare and Osservatorio Migranti Basilicata, together with Europarlamentarian Eleonora Forenza has been made available here.

Migrant abuse

A violent clash between inmates and police left several injured in the migration detention of Palazzo San Gervasio, Italy. Palazzo, a small town of 5000 inhabitants in the region of Basilicata, has recently come to host a group of Tunisian asylum seekers from Lampedusa, which has been officially closed down for renovation (another group was dispatched to Turin). Officially, the Tunisians are being charged now for setting on fire parts of the Lampedusa camp in protest against their inhumane treatment -a charge that has been firmly denied and contested by a court in Turin.

After their arrival in Basilicata mid-March, some Tunisian asylum claimants had started a hunger strike, in a desperate attempt to claim their right to asylum and to see their lawyers. on 27 March, a sit-in in front of the gates by a dozen of activists from the CSOA Anzacresa collective incited the inmates to protest against their infinite detention, which caused the police offensive (according to this report by Cronache di Ordinario Razzismo). Video fragments (which are very difficult to obtain because of the deliberate destruction of personal belongings by the camp guards) shared by the family members of the detainees show several injured inmates carried away by the police.

After a long closure, the migrant detention centre (officially Centri di Permanenza per i Rimpatri: CPR) of Palazzo was officially reopened in January to take on inmates from the overpopulated hotspot of Lampedusa, which had been criticized for some time for its inhumane conditions (for Italian reports see here and here). The structure has a long history of migrant accommodation. Originally confiscated from organized crime in 1999 (from a man called Antonio Sciarra), it initially served as a temporary accommodation for seasonal foreign labourers who return to the region each year to harvest tomatoes (an issue we talked about repeatedly on this blog). In 2011 regional authorities abruptly closed the infrastructure, officially to prevent migrants to settle illegally within the camp structure. While this decision deliberately dispersed foreign labourers to the surrounding countryside to set up their makeshift migrant ‘ghettos’, the regional administration quickly transformed the former labour camp into an open prison (officially CIE: Centro per Identificazione e Espulsione) for about 60 migrant detainees dispatched from various landing sites in Sicily. In April 2011, journalist Raffaella Cosentino documented the extreme cruelty with which migrant prisoners were detained there at the time (amongst others in this video), causing a subsequent protest and official visit by three Italian parliamentarians (Touadì, Calipari and Giulietti), who confirmed this situation as unacceptable.

After a long closure, the management of the infrastructure has been assigned now to a private company, called Engel Italia srl. Engel is not new to migration detention in Italy. In 2014 two civil society organizations, the labour union CGIL and LasciateCIEntrare, officially denounced the company for serious irregularities in the management of a refugee reception centre in Paestum, where migrants claimed they were threatened at gunpoint after claiming their basic human right to medical and assistance and to legal support. Local associations from Basilicata, presided by the Osservatorio Migranti Basilicata, and flanked by LasciateCIEntrare and the legal assistance collective ASGI, already last December attempted to sensitize the public opinion to the imminent reopening of the centre with a joint appeal. Lawyers, who have been denied access to the centre now for “security reasons”, are trying to find other ways to reach the 40 people held in this open-air prison. The only news that crosses its walls now arrives through local associations and through the relatives of the detainees.

Congo: Power to the Margins paperback

I am glad to announce the appearance of the paperback version of my book Violent Capitalism and Hybrid Identity in the Eastern Congo with Cambridge University Press. The book comes at a time of great turmoil in Congo’s north-east, where the end of armed conflict is not at all in sight, as recent reports from Ituri and le Grand Nord reveal. Reading through the detailed colonial and postcolonial history of this region makes one aware of the underlying dynamics of this armed conflict, which finds its origins in a series of intricate relations between regional politics, cross-border economies and capital accumulation. As Janosch Kullenberg writes in a recent review: the book moves beyond the “stereotypical and simplistic understandings about state failure and chronic violence in central Africa [which] have not led to great insights about either the mechanisms at work, or the emerging orders.” Instead the recent reports about continued violence in Eastern Congo make it worthwhile to approach this “constant crisis” through the long-term consequences of every day decision-making through a “ethnography of critical life worlds”.

Modern Slavery

I recommend this interesting workshop in June 2018, London, entitled ‘Modern Slavery, Environmental Destruction and Climate Change’. In this scoping workshop the aim of the organisers is to bring together academic researchers who are working at the interface of modern slavery, environmental destruction, and climate change. This is a new and rapidly evolving field of study that seeks to better understand the relationship between human and environmental (in)security.

More information on this website: https://www.projectbloodbricks.org/events/