Felandina eviction

Two days ago, the mayor of Bernalda, Domenico Tataranno, officially announced the imminent eviction of the migrant ocupation La Felandina, located in the industrial zone of Metaponto. The building has been occupied since a year by approximately 600 migrant workers, a majority of which are in possession of regular residence papers, according to official police sources. The migrants offer their labour to agricultural enterprises in the area. Since a few years the Basilicata and Calabria coastline has effectively become Southern Italy’s grocery garden: from the famous strawberries harvested in early Spring to the fruit and vegetables that are cultivated here over the Summer and Autumn, production continues throughout the year. Farmers sell their produce under often unfavourable contracts to the big distribution networks through intermediaries located in Puglia and Campania.

Speaking at a public meeting, the mayor said he took his decision after a long series of meetings with the Prefecture, Town Hall, and competent authorities – notwithstanding the acknowledgement, by the territiorial prefecture, that migrant workers who come to the area have difficulty finding alternative forms of accommodation. “It will be up to the State, through the security forces, to implement the eviction in practice. We will try, with the collaboration of those poor people, to find the best solution from a logistic point of view,” Tataranno concluded.

In March this year, the head of Basilicata’s Migrant Policy Coordination, Pietro Simonetti officially promised a temporary reception facility for 150 seasonal migrant workers, which so far has not been concretely defined. In the meantime, therefore, migrant workers have no other alternative other than occupying a new site.

Migrant tent camps in Metaponto, March 2018

It is not the first time it comes to such tensions in the area of Metaponto. Already in 2018, the mayor of Bernalda ordered the clearance of various tent camps located under the town’s bridges and in the many abandoned warehouses in the area. Like much of Basilicata, the area continues to be affected by a progressive abandonment, driven by a lack of institutional capacities and employment opportunities. Specifically, the 2018 eviction followed an open letter in which Metaponto’s residents denounced the, in their view, “disproportionate” presence of immigrant citizens who come to the area to work. Declaring a state of emergency, they asked the mayor to restore law and order in the area. 

The same year, two agricultural entrepreneurs and one gangmaster based in Metaponto had been officially indighted for illicit labour recruitment, which has become an offence under the new anti-racket legislation. Altogether, these events reveal once more the paradox of the current legislative context, which regards migrant labour intermediation as a criminal offense, but at the same time refuses to address its root causes beyond a mere logistical perspective. 

La Felandina (c) OMB

Appointments with ‘legality’: Italy’s slums


Another tragedy has affected African labourers in Italy’s plains this month. On 6 March, bulldozers demolished the San Ferdinando workers’ ghetto, located in the centre of Calabria’s orange plantations and Calabria’s Ndrangheta organized crime stronghold. The ghetto, which has claimed the lives of three people over the last year, had become a thorn in the eye of Italy’s Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, who has ordered the erection of a tent camp as well as a restoration of public order in the area. 

In 2011 the research team Bitter Oranges recorded living conditions in San Ferdinando in this video.

The eviction of San Ferdinando (close to Rosarno, which has been termed one of Italy’s new slavery sites) forms part of Italy’s interior minister’s promise to move “from words to actions.” Matteo Salvini is also the head of the right populist League party, whose members are currently establishing an institutional alliance with the European Far Right. Since his election he has repeatedly declared his intention to “raze to the ground” Italy’s shantytowns, including Rom and refugee settlements. Over the last year, more than a dozen such camps have been demolished, including the Baobab Experience in Rome, which hosted over hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers, as well as various Sinti and Rom settlements around Turin, Pisa and the Italian capital.

The official motivation for the eviction has been one of insecurity and a lack human dignity. But the Caritas settlement does not appears to offer much of an alternative. On 22 March, another person died in its tent camp situated only a few meters away from the old ghetto. The victim’s name is Sylla Nouma, a man in his thirties. “We hoped not to deplore situations like this any more,” the mayor Andrea Tripodi declared to the press. “It was an unexpected tragedy,” Vincenzo Alampi, the local Caritas director added. Although the causes of the fire are still be ascertained, a possible reason might have been a short circuit departing form the electric wires located in the corner of the tent.

The government-directed evictions, which Matteo Salvini systematically calls “appointments with legality”, particularly appear to target precarious workers’ settlements located in the heart of Southern Italy’s vegetable and fruit plantations nowadays. After the forced eviction of Rignano Garganico and Boreano last year (both situated in the tomato districts of Foggia and the Alto Bradano), the bulldozers have started moving to the South now. Last May local authorities destroyed the informal labour settlement of Campobello di Mazara, in Sicily –leaving workers no choice but to occupy new buildings: while 128 inhabitants were haphazardly hosted in a camp managed by the Red Cross, others have started to erect smaller settlements in the periphery of neighbouring Castelveltrano, in the heart of Sicily’s olive plantations. A similar fate now awaits San Ferdinando’s settlers. At the time of the eviction, the local prefect estimated the number of slum residents at 1.592 people, according to the Repubblica newspaper. While 200 were immediately transferred to official migrant reception centres, around 900 found temporary accommodation a new tent camp managed by Caritas. Local authorities have announced 30 housing units to accommodate future migrants coming to the area. But the mayor has repeatedly warned against housing migrants without also providing for local residents in this area stricken by poverty and criminality. In the meantime, the Interior Ministry has promised 350.000 euro’s to “restore liveability” in the area of San Ferdinando.

The official motivation for the eviction has been one of insecurity and a lack human dignity. But the Caritas settlement does not appears to offer much of an alternative. On 22 March, another person died in its tent camp situated only a few meters away from the old ghetto. The victim’s name is Sylla Nouma, a man in his thirties. “We hoped not to deplore situations like this any more,” the mayor Andrea Tripodi declared to the press. “It was an unexpected tragedy,” Vincenzo Alampi, the local Caritas director added. Although the causes of the fire are still be ascertained, a possible reason might have been a short circuit departing form the electric wires located in the corner of the tent.

An unexpected tragedy? Fire in Rignano Garganico January 2017

Because of pervasive uncertainty and a lack of consideration by official policies, more and more migrants now have started to move to other vegetable and fruit plantations in the area. Last month, some West African migrants already found refuge in a previous industrial plant in the plains of Metaponto, in neighbouring Basilicata, where the strawberry harvest is currently happening at full speed. Local associations are currently assisting the squatters with social and health services in the absence of official lodging facilities. Most likely, the slum will experience the same fate in a couple of months, when strawberries will have been picked, and the tomato planting season will begin once again in Foggia and Basilicata

La Felandina squat in Metaponto (c) OMB

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 

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

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.

Oro Rosso, Sangue Nero

Invitation to the the first episode of a series of sessions on the Black Mediterranean – a topic amply discussed on these pages.

location: the MET – Bologna,

time: March 25, at 16.30-23.00,

During the meeting we will discuss the working conditions of Black African labourers in South Italy’s tomato fields (particularly Puglia and Basilicata). The workshop will revolve around several tables, each of which will produce a different map of this agricultural frontier.

More info on facebook and on the MET info site (in Italian)

Foggia: new evictions underway

Little over two weeks after the eviction of the Ghetto of Rignano the situation in the province of Foggia continues to worsen. Still hundreds of people continue to live in the vicinity of the ghetto, huddled in caravans, cars and abandoned houses. While Minister Marco Minniti continues to associate these informal settlements with “illegal migration” (an observation that has repeatedly been proven false: in fact agricultural workers are for the most part regular immigrants), the police and judiciary of Foggia province firm their grip around the urban areas as well. Yesterday, local sources say, around 30 people have been identified and prosecuted for illegal occupation at a site in the periphery of Foggia, located in a former milk factory. The site has been evoked more than once as an example of resistance against the caporalato system, because workers located at la Casa Bianca -as they have renominated the former factory- refuse to work with illegal intermediaries. And, together with Pro Fuga -a local association from which they have drawn some support- they have denounced numerous times the detrimental effects of forced evictions on migrant labourers. The Foggia prosecution signals a clear change of course in addressing the phenomenon of migrant labour in Southern Italy: from 20 years of neglect, institutions appear to move towards a gradual dismantling of all remaining labour settlements -including those situated in urban areas.

 

Ghetto Out

MIC 4

GHETTO OUT

ALTERNATIVES TO SOUTH ITALY’S AGRO-CRIME

Thursday, February 4, 2016, 7 p.m.

Filmscreening and Discussion

Around 300’000 immigrant day workers are employed in Italy’s agro-business each year, 30 percent of which without a proper contract. While picking our tomatoes, olives and oranges, they are subject to violent exploitation: underpaid and overworked, they are frequently forced to live in improvised settlements, or so-called ‘ghettoes’. As Hervé (Papa Latyr Faye) said: “behind your tomatoes lies our slavery.” Yvan Sagnet and Leo Palmisano write in their recent book Ghetto Italia (Fandango 2015) that the caporalato system of illegal hiring corresponds to an internal logic of the labor market that permeates the entire Italian peninsula.

What keeps this criminal market running, and – above all – what are its alternatives? A team of specialists from different European Universities, the film protagonists of “La Belleville” and activists from Italy will discuss South Italy’s ghetto economy – focusing on the cases of La Capitanata (Puglia) and Vulture (Basilicata). The debate will be preceded by a screening of the documentary ‘La Belleville’ by Francesco Belizzi.

The evening opens a research project financed by SNIS (Swiss Network for International Studies)

Programme

19.00: Opening & introduction by Katharina Morawek (Shedhalle Zürich) and Sarah Schilliger (University of Basel)

19.15 Screening of ‘La Belleville’ (Francesco Belizzi)

20.15: Roundtable with Papa Latyr Faye & Mbaye Ndiaye (Casa Sankara), Yvan Sagnet (former CGIL, author of Ghetto Italia), Mimmo Perrotta (University of Bergamo, Funky Tomato), Elettra Griesi (University of Kassel), moderated by Timothy Raeymaekers (University of Zürich)

Shedhalle Bar afterwards!

mic5