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.
In the meantime, the first impressions of our Brussels workshop have been posted online by our funders… Thank you all for a very rewarding experience.
In passing, I mention this art movie produced by Nico Angiuli, winner of the arts and human rights competition for young artists and cultural institutions curated by Connecting Cultures and Fondazione Ismu, which is on display in Rome’s Quadriennale’s exhibition.
The project involves the Tre Titoli hamlet, nearby Cerignola, in Southern Italy’s Puglia Region. It narrates the symbolic intersection of the Ghanese community, which over the last decades has occupied some of the abandoned houses left after the hamlet’s faltered agricultural reform of the 1950’s and 70s, with that of the rural proletarian struggle led by union leader Giuseppe Di Vittorio during that very period.
Aware of these dire conditions, the artist aims at abandoning the usual two-dimensional representation of this African ghetto in the media by introducing practices of self-narration, in order to allow for a more complex scenario of compromise and tension, and thus giving voice to spontaneous micro-processes of resistance against widespread attempts to normalize this marginalisation process of local voices.
The project has been realised in collaboration with Terra Piatta (or ‘Flat Land‘), a program of research and artistic, social and cultural production, curated by Vessel, a cultural platform in Lucera, Puglia, with a specific focus on artistic practices in dialogue within a rapidly changing rural context.
Under the banner ‘ferries not FRONTEX‘ the Mediterranean Alarm Phone project pushed passengers and crew on the Tanger-Tarifa line (Morocco-Spain) in a conversations about what has recently become the deadliest and most militarised border in the world. In its latest monthly report, it furthermore assesses 18 cases of alerted border crossings, all to be found in their website.
Further to my blogpost on Boreano yesterday, I’d like to mention this report by Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which just came out last month: Out of Place. Asylum seekers and refugees in Italy: informal settlements and social marginalisation (the full report is only available in Italian so far).
“Based on research carried out in 2015, the report details the unacceptable conditions in which thousands of people are living in dozens of informal sites which have sprung up around the country. Most are asylum seekers and holders of international protection –and therefore legally present in the country– who have been forced to live in these conditions for months, and sometimes years, due to the inadequacies of Italy’s reception system and social integration policies. They include asylum seekers who have just arrived in Italy and who are being denied the assistance to which they are entitled by law due to a shortage of places in reception centres. They also include people in transit towards other European countries, and refugees who have lived in Italy for years but remain excluded from mainstream society.”
The sites visited by MSF include the former Olympic village in Turin exMOI, about which I wrote before, which continues to shelter over 1,000 people, to the Don Gallo house in central Padua, the “Ex-Set” factory in Bari, and the Borgo Mezzanone runway in Foggia, an informal site beside a government reception centre. But they do not include the many informal settlements like Boreano and Rignano Garganico that serve as permanent labour camps for predominantly African (but also Romanian, Bulgarian and other nationals) farmworkers dotted across the peninsula.
Lots of news on asylum in Europe these days…
While European and African leaders are trying to hammer home an agreement in Malta, including a €1.8bn “trust fund” in an attempt to cajole African governments into taking migrants back and stopping them from leaving the continent in the first place, Europe’s individual states are toughening their stance. Sweden, once considered the haven of social democratic welfare and migrant rights, has announced the introduction of temporary border checks. The controls will come into effect from midday local time on Thursday and will last initially for 10 days, the BBC writes.
In the meantime, German chancellor Angela Merkel feels increasingly battered at home and abroad for lack of vision, and for her unwillingness to apply tougher measures. With Schengen in shatters, the European dream has clearly vanished, the European commissioner for immigration, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said. In the meantime, a report from the Brussels based Migration Policy Institute lays bare the huge discrepancies between national immigration procedures. Reception conditions vary greatly from country to country, with some offering the minimum standard of shelter, food and clothes (like Italy and Greece) and others offering services for active integration, including schooling and work permits -which causes migrants to ‘shop around’ for better benefits.
The biggest obstacle, however, appears to be working permits: because European directives only designate the right to work, but not the actual possibility to exercise this right, migrants are sometimes actively pushed back into illegality. Similar perplexities surround the right to housing, on which I’ve written before here: without actual residence permits, migrants are regularly excluded from fundamental rights to health care and other social services, regardless of their paperwork. As long as these rights are not properly defined within a revised Dublin system -which has in any case become ‘obsolete‘ according to Angela Merkel, the European right to asylum will remain largely death letter.
While the European asylum system is disintegrating, photographer Giles Duley reports back from Lesbos as part of his work with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). He introduces a new series of images documenting the plight of the world’s displaced people: cemetery of souls indeed…
After Austria announced its border closures two weeks ago, Slovenia has started building several fences alongside its border with Croatia -thus forcing migrants to choose alternative routes. Though Reuters has no news on where and when the fence building would start, the Frankfurer Allgemeine (FAZ) mentions several border ‘obstacles‘ at Bregana/Rajec, Gornji Macelj, and Rupa, the main crossings from Zagreb towards Slovenia (respectively to the North, Northwest and East, towards Maribor, Ljubljana and Trieste, in Italy). This means migrants coming from Croatia practically have no alternative then to go straight to Italy -possibly facing another dangerous sea route.
The Slovenian government says these obstacles are not meant to completely seal of the border but just to “divert” migrants. Already on Monday evening, it took several emergency measures to protect the Schengen area in preparation of the arrival of up to 30.000 refugees to Slovenia this week. The small country has become one of the main transit countries on the so-called Balkan route.
The constant migrant flows across the Balkan route are triggering an intriguing sequence of openings and closures towards the EU, as this interesting map from Reuters (September 2015) shows. In the meantime, an interactive Refugee Volunteer map has been introduced on google, which indicates changing camp sites and possible border crossings.
Slovenia and Croatia (which does not belong to the Schengen area) have agreed now to allow a maximum of 1000 migrants to cross the border every three hours, the FAZ writes. On Monday Croatia sent more then 5000 people onwards to Slovenia, which caused the Alpine country to seal off its borders. While the border between Croatia and Hungary is closed, and Hungary has built a border fence with Serbia, the latter allows migrants to cross the country after registration at its border checkpoints with Macedonia. Croatia continues to channel its migrants through several, mobile camp sites -amongst others in Opatovac (which has apparently been closed), and Slavonski Brod, situated on the Sava River. Ironically, Slavonski Brod served as a refugee camp during the war in ex-Yugoslavia. It was subject to serious shelling by Serbian forces stationed in Bosnia at the time, as this book on war crimes in ex-Yugoslavia indicates. For now, it appears to suit Croatian authorities, who are managing the camp together with IOM, UNICEF and the Red Cross, best because it has its independent railway station to channel migrants in and out of the camp swiftly.
Besides these overlapping borderscapes, European leaders face serious difficulties diffusing the tensions these constant migrant flows to the Schengen area generate. While Balkan leaders continue to scream for emergency measures (Macedonian President Gjorge Ivanov was quoted as using U.S. independence hero Benjamin Franklin’s saying: “If we don’t stick together we will hang separately” two weeks ago), EU Commission Chief Jean-Claude Juncker increasingly attaches assistance to ‘effective border management’ and wants EU-directed migration to be recognised as a global issue. At its upcoming top, he wants the G20 to declare a step up of funding for international organizations dealing with migration crises. Some major battles around the issue of migration are surely ahead of us.
The Association for Border Studies (ABS) has just opened its membership renewal for 2016.
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Check out the weekly Alarm Phone report at Watch the Med -the online mapping platform to monitor the deaths and violations of migrants’ rights at the maritime borders of the EU, which reports an unprecedented death rate in the Aegean Sea.
The sharp rise of alerts to the Alarm Phone also reflects the enormous increase of border crossings in the Aegean. More than 210.000 travellers have entered the European Union through this route within the last month alone – about as many as in the entire year of 2014, the Guardian writes.