4 January 2016

Let’s reject everyone or even better, let’s not!

“If we hadn’t seen it with our own eyes, it would have
been difficult to believe what Italy is doing. We are producing “illegal
immigrants”, and entirely consciously. A human being, one who has just arrived
after a journey across the desert, Libya and the sea, has been rejected with a
piece of paper whose meaning he doesn’t even understand, but which actually
condemns him to irregularity since the moment of his entering the country. This
is an individual who has been deprived of every possibility of a real life.
Italy is following “orders” coming from Europe and doesn’t realize that the
only way to move beyond this, for their sake and for its own, is to give them
leave to remain, a travel document, and to let these people enter Europe with
their heads held high. We should drape them in legality! Instead of throwing
them onto the streets, as they’ve been doing around here for some months now.”

These are the words spoken by Anna, one of many who fortunately have not
surrendered to the racist drift in our system. From Saturday afternoon, Anna
and others have closely followed the 198 young men ejected in the past two days
from the new hotspot in Trapani.
Her presence, along with that of Marco, a local
activist and reporter, and that of workers from the Red Cross who have taken care of, fed and walked with the boys
under the stars these past two days, has created the conditions to force
institutions to make an about turn and give a real chance to apply for asylum
to those migrants who have expressed the will to do so.

The notification for the deferred rejections of around 40 people, and their
simultaneous removal from the hotspot, began on Saturday at around 6pm. On
Sunday, however, it also extended to the rest of the group who had disembarked
at Palermo on December 29th: in all, around 200 people of various
nationalities, including people from Gambia, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Pakistan,
Mali and Guinea.

Those who had been rejected on Saturday slept in the
streets of Trapani, on a bench in the cold and without anything to eat. As long
as the numbers were small no one took notice. But when the whole two hundred
filled Piazza Vittorio, nothing could be done to sweep the situation under the
rug. The migrants moved en masse to the train station, but there wasn’t any
train to catch. And, if there had been any, without any money it wouldn’t have
been easy to catch it, as other groups in the same situation have experienced
out in other train stations in Sicily. Returning to Piazza Vittorio, the Red Cross endeavoured to get some food
for them.

The Prefect quickly decided to open an emergency
shelter in a gym near the port, having observed the situation (and also the
physical proximity of the Piazza to the building in question). The structure
was completely inadequate however, lacking as it did any beds, mattresses or a
sufficient number of toilets, but at least it allowed them not to spend the
night out in the open. The Red Cross
took care of food thanks also to donations from local restaurants in Trapani
and Marsala.

All the migrants we spoke to told us that they hadn’t
had any opportunity to apply for asylum and, on the contrary, that officials
had summoned them to sign papers without any explanation, so that they could
leave the hotspot, but without specifying that they were meant to leave Italy
as well.

If somebody asked for an explanation before signing,
they were shut down with a simple “no problem”, meaning that everybody signed,
even a young man with albinism and allegedly some minors as well. The police
station claimed that no minor had been rejected, but those who were present
reported that some of the men were clearly under age.

At that stage, given the concern about everything
going on, the rejected migrants started to ask about their fate, but no one was
prepared to give them any answers.


Today the Prefect called an emergency meeting in which
were present representative of various public institutions, officials from the Red Cross and a few MPs from the Five Stars Movement, who once informed
about the incident wanted to follow the events. The final decision was an about
turn, as has also happened in Agrigento in recent days, after migrants
demonstrated in front of the police station and were consequently taken to
Villa Sikania in order to begin the process of requesting international
protection. In the same way, by the evening, the migrants had been transferred
from the gym back to the hotspot.

What has happened in Trapani is the umpteenth
demonstration that these totally unlawful practices are the expression of a
political strategy, whose madness and indefensibility is actually recognised by
the same institutions, which have to cope with the situation on the ground.
What this means in practice is a kind of schizophrenic activity which, besides
violating human rights and demolishing the right to asylum, also equates to a
high burden on public funds. The people we are rescuing from the sea are the
same people who immediately afterwards, we simply throw on the trash.

Alberto Biondo
Borderline Sicilia Onlus

Translated by Traduzioni Clandestine / Proofread by Richard Braude

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