13 April 2018
Free the Open Arms and the Iuventa: No One Should Be Sent Back to the Libyan Inferno
Appeal from the Sicilian Antiracist groups.
We want to break the silence and indifference in the face of the drowning of human rights. We call for demonstrations throughout Italy to demand the release of the humanitarian rescue ships the Open Arms and the Iuventa, and to submit the following appeal to the Prefectures:
The ship belonging to the NGO Proactiva Open Arms remains under seizure in the port of Pozzallo, just as ship belonging to the NGO Jugend Rettet, the Iuventa, remains in the port of Trapani. Every day that these ships stand still condemns hundreds of people to death, people who either drown at sea or are dragged back to the Libyan inferno.
The accusations being levelled are always the same: that they have saved human lives in the Mediterranean. The Open Arms also refused to hand rescued people over to the Libyan Coast Guard, whose conduct has been described by the UN as “violent and extremely dangerous”. The accusations levelled against the NGOs by Sicilian courts seem to be part of an open war against solidarity, as if this were the real crime problem in Italy.
The sea has been left to the Libyans, who drag migrant men, women and children back to be closed up in the centres which, according to a memo of understanding signed by the former premier Paolo Gentiloni and the Libyan leader Al-Serrag, are defined as “welcoming centres”; but which the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has defined instead as “unacceptable” as the “suffering of the people detained in Libya is an offense to the conscience of humanity”.
We are living in a world turned upside down, in which the Italian government – with the approval of the EU – signs deals with a country dominated by militia and mafia, in order to request the management of thousands of helpless people and where those who work every day to save lives are criminalised and stopped from eing able to perform their activities any more.
From the Alps to the Mediterranean, the attack on solidarity is intensifying all across Italy.
Today we ask the same question that Piero Calamandrei asked in 1956 when defending Danilo Dolci in his peaceful struggle for social justice: Where is the crime, what does it consist of, who has committed it? What wrong have the accused performed? In what sense have they offended social solidarity and lacked the civic duty of altruism?
And when we ask ourselves what is the crime and who are the real criminals, we recall that the International Criminal Court in the Hague is currently investigating the hypothesis of crimes against humanity for what is happening in Libya. And that Italy has direct and indiscutible responsability in these crimes. People are not being cast back into horror on Italian ships, but it is Italy who has paid and trained the soldiers who pilot them; it is not Italians who are torturing people in the Libyan detention centres, but the torturers are acting according to agreements that Italy has signed, the substance of which, fundamentally is this: keep the migrants back, at all costs – do to them as you please.
With this APPEAL we ask Italian politicians, judges and ordinary people to respond to a simple question: are you in agreement, do you want to be complicit with the policies in the Mediterranean that are directly leading to torture, rape, slavery and murder? For what cause will you pay this price? Are you complicit in believing in an invasion that doesn’t exist? Complicit with those who use migrants to build careers on fear and the spreading of racism, in order to shift attention away from real problems – work and income, health and schooling being privatised and attacked, poverty and ever-increasing inequality? What does migration have to do with any of this? How will the destruction of human rights and the legitimisation of a society based on evil and hatred help us to live better?
We are breaking the silence and indifference in the face of the drowning of human rights.
- WE DEMAND acknowledgement that what is happening contravenes international and European agreements, is contrary to the principles of our Consttitutions, to rights at sea and also against so-called European juridical civilisation
- WE DEMAND the immediate release of the Open Arms and the Iuventa
- WE DEMAND the immediate suspension of the Italy-Libya agreement
- WE DEMAND legal and safe passage to European countries
This appeal is being sent out from Sicily to organise demonstrations in front of the Prefectures in all of Italy on Saturday 14th Aprile, in order to submit this letter and our requests to the representative of the Italian government throughout the country.
Sicilian Anti-Racist groups:
Arci Palermo, Artemigrante Palermo, Associazione Onlus LAB.ZEN 2, Borderline Sicilia, Borderline-Europe Caffè Internazionale, Centro Salesiano S. Chiara, Ciai Palermo, CISS/Cooperazione Internazionale Sud Sud, CLEDU- Clinica Legale per i diritti umani Università di Palermo, Comitato Antirazzista Cobas Palermo, Cooperativa Libera…mente, Emmaus Palermo, Forum Antirazzista di Palermo, Giocherenda, Gris Sicilia, H.R.Y.O./Human Rights Youth Organization, Idee in movimento, Laici comboniani Palermo, Le Onde Onlus, Missionari comboniani Palermo, Rifondazione Comunista – Palermo, Sinistra Comune, Stato Brado
Project “OpenEurope” – Oxfam Italia, Diaconia Valdese, Borderline Sicilia Onlus
Translation by Richard Braude