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

Where is the Law?

Society and Space just published a marvelous virtual theme issue on international migration, with contributions from Rutvica Andrijasevic and William Walters, Deirdre Conlon and my former colleague Susan Thieme, amongst others.

The collection adds further depth to the ongoing discussion in critical legal geography on the complex and expanding spaces of the law, expressed for example in a recent collection edited by Irus Braverman and others. These authors draw in turn on a long-standing scholarship of legal anthropologists like the Von Benda Beckmanns, Boaventura Santos, legal geographers like Nicholas Blomley and David Delaney, and legal scholars like Zoe Pearson and Oren Yiftachel.

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In the guest editorial of Society and Space, called ‘the where of asylum’, Mustafa Dikeç asks the pugnant question:

Does law produce spaces where it no longer applies? Does it, in other words, set up spaces of lawlessness?”

Parallel to Irus Braverman and colleagues, Dikeç addresses this question not merely from a practical legal perspective (how law is shaped) but out of a profound curiosity into power’s spatial constitution, as John Allen would put it.

What animates this growing body of work, Dikeç writes, is the idea that law may be involved in producing spaces of lawlessness. In other words: violence that is commonly depicted as ‘lawless’ may actually be committed through the law –or rather: through the continuous reproduction of its exception. It is this latter strand that seems to be the main concern of contemporary legal-spatial research.

Dikeç’s question came to mind lately when watching a series of recent Italian documentaries on the expanding migrant ‘ghettos’ in Puglia, Campania and Basilicata (the issue is generating worldwide attention nowadays, some day I need to produce a list of recent contributions). Set up as labour camps for the numerous seasonal land labourers (or braccianti) who invigorate South Italy’s plantation economy, these ‘ghetto’s’ reflect the extremely violent and exploitative forms of encampment capitalist labour regimes engender across international borders today (not to speak about the strong semantic resonance of the term). But they also express how the law (particularly asylum law) consciously creates it own exception, which is henceforth placed outside of its protective realm.

In other words, the conscious abandonment of protection as a fundamental value of state sovereignty within the EU’s national state frameworks is not just made possible through the systematic prevention of access to its territory, or the official detention of migrants across Europe’s many camp sites. But it is also justified through the reproduction of these liminal environments, which simultaneously constitute the law’s outer-space – or frontier zone – and the inner space of cross-border capitalist undertakings. Reflecting on Europe’s schizophrenic hospitality, Andreas Oberprantacher writes:

It is crucial to realise, however, that it is not just states that are implicated in the creation and management of a heterogeneous population of illegal aliens, but also actors that are usually acting in concert with liberal democratic states, so that two major elements of the rule-of-law, that is jurisdiction and accountability, are effectively diffused in a rather viscous and all-too-often treacherous frontier regime.

Somebody who has been working on the transformation of the state’s legal space theoretically more recently is David Delaney. In his recent book, Nomospheric Investigations, he tries to overcome the discrepancy between the legal and the spatial as two autonomous realms. The nomosphere is the cultural-material environment that emerges out of the performative engagements through which the social signification of the ‘legal’ and the legal signification of the ‘social’ materialize and mutually constitute one another. At the same time Delaney makes it plain that nomic settings, like the home, the archive, or the workplace, do not exist in isolation from one another. But they are the contingent products of pervasive cultural processes associated with the nomosphere (he uses the term nomoscapes). His work feels reminiscent of feminist scholarship about the location of knowledge (I think of Donna Harraway and Bell Hooks for example) as well as some of the more recent critical scholarship on borders (of which the Society and Space theme issue is just one recent outcome) I look forward to engage more in-depth with.

 

East Congo: Power to the Margins

9781107082076I am somewhat proud to announce the publication of my first single authored book with Cambridge University Press: Violent Capitalism and Hybrid Identity in the Eastern Congo: Power to the Margins.
The book discusses the radical transformation of eastern Congo’s political order in the context of apparent armed destruction and state weakness. Throughout the seven chapters, I trace back today’s violent rule patterns to a tumultuous history of extra-economic accumulation, armed rebellion and de facto public authority in the margins of regional power plays.
The book’s originality lies in its critically assessment of East Congo’s presumed collapse into “chaos”. Looking beyond the dominant paradigms, my main focus lies on cultural and economic uncertainty. Rather than curing the world’s ills – which, unfortunately, remains the dominant tendency in contemporary conflict analysis – I try to answer the difficult but important question what institutional changes result from strategies of daily risk management in an environment characterised by violent competition over the right to govern.
Pre-order forms can be found here

Out of the Ghetto

Two documentaries just came out on the slavery-like conditions of migrant labourers in South Italy’s agricultural sector. Watch out for screenings of ‘La Belleville‘ and ‘Destination de Dieu‘ at

https://www.facebook.com/labellevilledoc (facebook) and @LaBellevilleDoc (twitter)

https://it-it.facebook.com/pages/Destination-de-dieu/1487329524813007 (facebook)