9 March 2018
A Witness Account from the Lampedusa Hotspot
We have received and publish below a witness account of what took place on the 7th and 8th of March inside the Lampedusa Hotspot:
the problem began when one guy swallowed a razor blade in protest and, while he was suffering and complaining the police arrived and beat him. a migrant made a video and the police began looking for him to cancel it, kicking off a kind of man hunt. some of the guys decided to sleep outside the office in protest, demanding that the guy who had eaten the razor blade should be released. today there was a really violent policeman in the centre who tried to provoke them the whole day long. for example, he pushed them and hit them with his truncheon while they waited in the food queue, for no reason at all.
after these provocations, people started going to the unhcr office to ask to speak with the director in order to get the violent policeman removed. the un tried to talk to the directo but didn’t manage to. at this point the guys had a meeting and decided to go and speak with the director themselves to get rid of the policeman and find a solution that would restore safety. tensions were high and people were angry. without naming names, there’s a father of a family there who told the director “you need to find a solution immediately”, and getting the reply: “in a week i’m out of here, and in that week no one is moving. you’re all going to be here for some time: a month, 2 months, 3 months…”. at this point, the father said “ok then, we’ll take it up with the next director, but for now we’re asking you to talk with the police and tell them not to treat us badly…”. the director replied that that wasn’t his job.
after this, everyone went back inside where they slept and were really very angry: they decided to leav the centre, given that the director claimed to not be able to help them and wasn’t able to protect them. they packed the few clothes they had and went to the gates altogether, asking the soldiers to open the door and sauing “we’re leaving and we’re not coming back”. while this group was talking with the security guards, three guys remained inside and set fire to a room.
the group at the gates saw the fire growing behind them in the last rooms in the buidling. this caused a general panic and the security guards had their batons in hand, which simply contributed to spreading still more panic among the people who had begun to run in all directions, while the police began the violent charges. some people managed to get out of the main gate, others got through a whole and others still were stuck in the middle of the entrance, including families and an eight-year-old girl who had been subjected to the police aggression, following which she was taken to the emergency rooms.
following this, the police chased people who were running to the surrounding hills, and began photographing them (the police photographed people running away into the hills).
over the evening two women and a girl were taken to hospital because of the wounds they suffered.
We gather that, of the 150 people detained in the Hotspot, around 60 are asylum seekers. The promis of transfers to be made by February 20th has been delayed and it was entirely doubtful as to whether they would happen, as the Lampedusa Solidarity Forum critically reported in a letter to the Prefect of Agrigento at the end of last month.
Project “OpenEurope” – Oxfam Italia, Diaconia Valdese, Borderline Sicilia Onlus
Translation by Richard Braude