02 September 2007

August 2007

ROME – The massacre goes on. At least 243 migrants died at the gates of Europe during the month of August, 9,756 the victims since 1988. From the beginning of the year 959 people have died, the majority off Malta and Lampedusa. In the Strait of Sicily in August the victims are 161; 29 in the Aegean sea and 13 off Canary islands. Three men died, two in Turkey and one in Spain, in the trucks where they were travelling hidden in order to cross illegally the European frontier. In Italy, a 28 years old Albanian died crossing by foot the Carso mountain along the Slovenian border. But the Europe Fortress is making victims also in the Indian Ocean, where, in order to reach the French island of Mayotte, 36 migrants were drowned in August. Meanwhile at Agrigento, the trial against the 7 Tunisian fishermen arrested having saved 44 shipwrecked migrants, goes on. Hundreds Iraqis refugees are being returned form the Italian ports - denounces Fortress Europe, while new witnesses denounce police abuses in the French airports.

Dead sea. 11th August 2007. 11 people were reported to be missing after the Spanish cruise ship "Jules Verne" saved a capsized migrants boat, 60 miles off Malta. 15th August 2007. The Italian patrolling airplane Atlantic sighted 14 corpses floating on the sea, 55 miles off Lampedusa. 23rd August 2007. The Italian fishing boat Ofelia, rescued a man in sea, 70 miles off Lampedusa, the only survivor of 45 shipwrecked migrants. 30th August 2007. While a Greek vessel rescued a group of migrants 72 miles off Malta, their boat capsized and 25 people were drowned. Daily chronicle of a war never declared. At least 2,420 people have died in the strait of Sicily during the last ten years, and the 2007 confirms to be the worst years: 491 victims until now, against the 302 in all 2006. Nevertheless the arrivals along the Sicilian coasts decreased by 30%. Actually, the navigation on smaller and smaller boats, the lack of a captain aboard, the longer routes, and the lack of fishermen assistance are making the crossing more and more dangerous.

In 2005 a migrants boat carried to Sicily an average of 101 passengers. Today they are 41. Migrants confirm that the networks which organize the crossings don't send anyone of them to drive the boat. The coxswain is one of the passengers. The organizers save money and the migrants are arrested at their place, as happened for example to the three Eritreans arrested the 2nd August. Last but not least, the routes are changing. They are longer and they pass more at east, as confirmed by the increase of arrivals at Malta and on the Sicilian eastern coasts. The reason is to avoid the Tunisian patrolling, because the Tunisian return migrants back to Libya. During a trial in Agrigento, the commander of the Italian Navy ship Vega, Francesco Saladino, declared that the 8th August a Tunisian military ship returned to a Tunisian port a group of migrants rescued in international waters, 34 miles off Lampedusa, in full violation of international maritime conventions and of Geneva convention for refugees. Actually it’s well known that among migrants travelling towards Sicily, there are refugees. Their deportation in Country where they risk to be arrested and tortured is forbidden, but collective returning is the objective of Italian and European policies to contrast illegal migration via sea. Also the last month, the Tunisian government decided to deport in Libya a group of Somalis, Sudaneses and Eritreans migrants rescued in international waters. Italy seems to has already started working with Tunisia in this direction.

Seven Tunisian fishermen. They saved the lives of 44 shipwrecked migrants, the 8th August. They now risk up to 15 years of detention, if sentenced guilty of illegal migration abetment. The afternoon of that 8th August, the captain Janzeri sent immediately an Sos to the Tunisian maritime rescue coordination centre, which turned it to Rome, saying two Tunisian fishing boats rescued 44 shipwrecked, including one needing medical assistance. Rome sent 4 patrol vessels and then the two fishing boats were escorted to Lampedusa island, which was at just 14 miles. But at their arrival the seven fishermen were arrested accused to have smuggled the migrants in Italy. Actually the fishermen respected all the obligation of the international maritime conventions Sar and Solas, which impose to rescue any shipwrecked and to accompany him in the safest port. If found guilty, the fishermen risk from one to 15 years of jail, even if the defence has said to be ready to appeal until the European Court. Many associations demonstrated in Agrigento the 7th September to ask their freedom, supported by a list of 103 European deputies, but in the meanwhile the seven remain in jail. And every fisherman has known what happened to them. Shipwrecks survivors often reported the indifference of fishermen and cargo vessels in front of sinking boats. And now, even if the Tunisians will be acquitted, who else will risk years of jail and the seizure of his boat? It’s a big problem, because without the aid of fishermen the Strait will make more dead.

Maritimes laws impose the assistance of shipwrecked, but the Italian immigration law impose the detention of the rescuers. What a big contradictions between the international conventions and the national laws! Let’s remind that the article 13 of the universal Declaration of human rights say everyone has the right to leave any Country. The European union agency Frontex, has the declared goal to deny this right, preventing the departures from the Mediterranean Countries. Its last patrolling mission in the strait of Sicily, Nautilus II, ended the 27th July, after one month of activity. But the 10th September it will start again. The hope for Nautilus III, said Amato and Hortefeux, is that Tripoli will join the operations, accepting the returning in Libya of rescued migrants. And maybe Malta has already told about it with Libyan government, during their last bilateral meeting held in Tripoli the 21st and 22nd August.

And in Libya, 600 Eritreans continue to be detained in Misratah. Witnesses collected among the Eritreans who have just arrived in Sicily and confirmed from the High Commissariat for Refugees (Unhcr), told about new arrests. 450 of the prisoners have being detained for more than one years. Among them there are about 100 women and more than 50 children, including 2 baby who were born in jail. They all risk to be deported and arrested once landed in Eritrea. Actually the majority of them deserted the army of a country in war with Ethiopia. Unhcr recognized the political asylum of 49 of the detained women, and is asking to the international community for their resettlement. Four Countries have until now answered. Among them Italy. But nobody knows what will be the destiny of the others 550 Eritreans, 114 of whom are officially refugees, and so under the protection of Unhcr which recognized their status in the refugees camps in Sudan and Ethiopia. Paradoxically, their only hope would be a deportation in the desert, along the border with Sudan, from where they could try again the way to Europe, if not died before. That way, the desert, the Libyan jails and the Strait of Sicily, continue to be the only way from the Horn of Africa to ask for political asylum in Europe.

In the first 8 months of 2007, at least 1,225 Algerians landed in Sardinia, 612 of whom in August. The Algerian Navy sent the ship “Chiheb 352” to patrol the coasts of Annaba, where the harrag depart toward Italy and where the authorities has already found 42 bodies from the beginning of the year. But Algeria is also the main way to Morocco, from all western Africans heading to Spain. Eight thousands migrants of 48 nationalities have been arrested in the first six months of 2007 and 638 were arrested in July. They had been 13,000 during all 2006. A great part of them have been deported to the south, abandoned in the Sahara desert, along the borders with Niger and Mali. Today a thousand of people lives in inhuman and degrading conditions, near the Malian oasis of Tinzaouatine, where they arrive after few days of march from the Algerian frontier check point of Bordj Mokhtar. Blockaded for months without any kind of assistance, they live inside caves with a lot of heath disease, especially for women and children. But Europe turns the eyes and on the contrary pays 10 million euro to Algeria (Program Meda II) for the service.

The Aegean way from Turkey to Greece became really dangerous. The victims have never been so many as this year: 96 migrants have died during the first 8 months of 2007; they were 73 in all 2006. And the Greek authorities arrested 3,000 migrants at sea from the beginning of the year. But once landed, nobody wants to remain in Greece, a country which has been recently denounced by an Eu report for abuses against migrants and refugees. And even Greece seens not to want anybody to remains, if only 0.3% of the asylum seekers are accepted. The final destinations for Iraqis and Afghans refugees are Sweden and United Kingdom. But before they must cross the Schengen sea. Italy is a necessary and not simple step.

During the month of August, the Italian authorities returned to Greece 362 migrants found hidden on the tourists ferries which arrive every day in the Adriatic ports from Patras and Igoumenitsa. 200 of them were Iraqis and about 30 Afghans. The ports interested are those of Bari (190 people returned), Brindisi (17), Ancona (153) and Venezia (2). In this way, every year Italy returns illegally thousands of people, and denied hundreds of Iraqis and Afghans the opportunity to aplly for political asylum. Actually there is no written measure of expulsion. Migrants found illegally on the ferry are taken aboard until the ship departs back to Greece, where normally they are kept in detention for three months. Cir, the ngo working in the frontier have no access to these people. The 9th April 2007, 183 migrants were returned in a single day. 150 of them were Iraqis.

And once in Greece what happens? We only remember that in Greece there is not one Iraqis refugees. And Greece has signed an agreement of readmission with Turkey in 2001, and has returned Iraqi refugees, as recently denounced by the World organization against torture. And Turkey has repatriated 135 Iraqis in July, according to Unhcr. More than 2 millions of Iraqi live in the Syrian and Jordanian refugees camps, and only the 4% of them found protection in Eu. The European Parliament, the 15th February 2007, approved a resolution on Iraq which asks the Member States to give asylum to the Iraqis refugees, forbids their repatriation, and advises not to proceed to Dublin transfers if the interested Country doesn’t examine correctly the Iraqis asylum request. Today, Italy and Greece violate this resolution.

The 9th June, in Spain, a 23 years old Nigerian died suffocated by the police on the airplane which were deporting him in Nigeria. In France, the same happened in Paris in 2002 and 2003, when the police killed two migrants who refused to board on the airplane. And other 6 migrants were killed in the similar conditions in Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, Spain and Austria. The last month, a Libération journalist, Karl Laske, reported a witness of an Algerian men recently repatriated, who denounced worrying police abuses at Roissy airport. Abdelkader, 33 years old, electrician, had lived in France since 2001. He was repatriated the 8th August from the port of Marseille, after the police failed to board him on an airplane in Paris, the 3rd August. He told: “At Roissy airport I told the police I did not want to leave. I appealed against my expulsion. I had right to wait for the sentence. They told me I didn’t have any right. So they started to hit me in the stomach. I began to scream, but the policeman pressed my throat. A third policeman pushed me from behind and made me fall dawn. Stretched on the ground and handcuffed behind the back, they bound my ankles with an adhesive tape. I protested but they screamed to me. Then one of the policeman stood up over my chest with her shoes. I was weakened because of my hunger strike. She hit me with all the force. Then all the three mounted over my stomach and my chest, with the feet(…). Then they took me and hit my head against the wall, tightening my throat so that I couldn’t scream”. A story like many others. It would enough to read the Anafé reports. Stories which are the evidences of an Europe which lost its right and humanity.

The August bulletin ends with two newness. Fortress Europe added to its archives the documentation of the victims off Mayotte, a French island in the Indian Ocean, in Africa. Owned since the colonial times, it remains a peripheral gate in order to enter in Europe. Every year hundreds of migrants leave from the Comoro islands, in particular from Anjouan, which is the nearest one, at just 80 kilometres. Here, since 2006, at least 97 people were drowned. The other news is that Fortress Europe is now online also in Rumanian. Our denounces against the massacres and the crimes committed at the European frontiers reached a new and important channel, considering that Rumania became one of the new Eastern gendarmes of the Old continent.