Murder. Mariano Ruggiero, 46 years old, was arrested with this accusation. The facts date back to the night of January 10th. Fifty miles south of Lampedusa, a dinghy with 60 Somalis on board crosses the Italian fishing boat commanded by Ruggiero. One of the refugees reaches the vessel by swimming and asks for help. But Ruggiero hits him and throws him back in the sea. The man drowns. His body disappears between the waves. It is an unprecedented incident in Italy. On January 14th, the Court of Agrigento validates the arrest of Ruggiero. The same day, the Court of Agrigento host the hearings of two other processes. One against the seven Tunisian fishermen and the other against Cap Anamur. That’s to say the two symbol processes against rescue at sea. Two processes which taught fishermen to turn away from the boats of migrants to avoid legal problems. The same problems which perhaps Ruggiero wanted to avoid.
Radar against massacres? Eighteen of the 22 victims surveyed in January, were directed in Spain. They continue to die, despite the Sive integrated survey system, a network of 23 radar stations placed along the Andalusian coast and other 27 in the Canaries (16 of which still under construction). The system can distinguish an object of half a meter at a distance of 21 km from the coast making the rescue operation more rapid. But, in order to escape the eyes of Sive, migrants are sailing on smaller and overcharged boats, which become invisible to the infrared radar, hidden by the crests of waves. As for example the boat arrived in Conil on January 22nd and capsized one meter from the beach or that one sunk near Barbate at the beginning of the year. Ten people were drowned. Certainly the number of arrivals in the Peninsula fell by 24% in 2007 and the victims of the Strait of Gibraltar, also thanks to radar, decreased from 215 in 2006 to 131 in 2007. But this cost of human lives remains unacceptable. Radars won’t stop the massacre, without policies for the mobility of African workers, the re-settlement of refugees and a strong economic investment in the Mediterranean Countries.
87 millions. Frontex patrols in the Atlantic Ocean, off Canary islands, managed to intercept and turn back to the African coasts 12,864 migrants since 2006. And from February 2008, the EU patrols will become permanent with the participation of Spain, Portugal and Italy. Frontex will pay 12 millions euros for the operation. While 87 millions are allocated for 2007-08 for the repatriation of migrants landed in the Canary Islands (16.000 repatriated from January 2007 to August, at a cost of 10.8 million euros, that’s to say 675 euros per head), and joint patrols carried out in Senegal, Mauritania and Morocco. Meanwhile during the last raids in Morocco the police arrested hundreds of migrants in Rabat, while at least 2,400 migrants were arrested in 2007 along the coasts of Western Sahara and then deported to Algeria, and left to themselves in a no men’s land along the border. On the contrary, no patrols stopped the flotilla of industrial trawlers from the European Union, China and Russia, which have scoured northwest Africa’s ocean floor, causing the departure of fishermen to Spain.
Fishing corpses. Ale Nodye, the son and grandson of fishermen, for the past six years netted barely enough fish to buy fuel for his boat. So he left Senegal on a wooden canoe to the Canary Islands. The 2006 voyage ended badly. He was deported and his cousin died. Nonetheless, Mr. Nodye, 27, intends to try again. “I could be a fisherman there,” he said to the New York Times. “There are no fish in the sea here anymore.” Many scientists agree. European, Chinese, and Russian flotillas have so thoroughly scoured the ocean floor that major fish populations are collapsing. Even the president of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade, accused Europe: "We want to catch fish not corpses." And continued: "We use to have the richest floor, but our bottoms were destroyed by the European and Asian clandestine fishing." History repeats itself. And the protagonist is the EU, which with one hand pillages the resources of an entire continent and with the other one closes the ways of those who try to escape.
To be 14 years old in Italy. During January, at least three people died on the way from Turkey to Greece and Italy. During the night of January 15th, a woman drowned while attempting to cross the Evros river, northeastern Greece, along the borders with Turkey, on board a rowboat, falling into the frozen river waters when the boat capsized. Two weeks later, on January 30th, the decomposing body of a man was found on board a passenger ferry sailing from Patras to Venice, in a storerooms where he was hidden to reach Italy. The same destination which had the 14 years old Afghan who died one week earlier, on January 22nd. Hi fell from the truck, coming from Greece, under which he was hidden. His body were found on the highway near Forlì.
The hunting season. Police in Patras the end of January launched an operation aimed at rounding up some 3.500 refugees who have been camping around the central port for several months. By January the 24th afternoon, police had detained around 200, who were put on buses to Athens. The remainder are to be gathered over the next few days and sent to detention centers in Lavrion and Evros, in order to be deported to Turkey. In the meanwhile, shacks used by Kurds and Afghans in Patras were knocked down as authorities rounded up the refugees. But a big demonstration, with more than 2,000 participants, including hundreds of Afghan and Iraqi refugees, stop the operations of demolition. The camp host at least some 700 persons, mostly Afghans, including 300 children. The conditions of the camp are horrible: no sanitary facilities, lack of drinking water and no provision of garbage collection. In 2006, a 33-year-old Afghan resident of the camp was instantly killed when he tried to illegally connect cables with electric wires.
Cruise Greece. A ferry arrived in the Greek port of Igoumenitsa the 19th January with 66 Iraqis Kurds and 4 Afghans aboard. They were returned by the Italian authorities. They are expected to be deported in Turkey as well as the 200 Iraqis arrested in Igoumenitsa the last week and sent to Evros, near the Turkish border, in order to be readmitted in Turkey. According to the press, at least 172 migrants, mostly Afghans and Iraqis, were readmitted in Greece from the Italian ports of Bari, Ancona and Venice, in the month of January. In 2006 the readmissions in Greece just from the port of Bari were 850, including 300 Iraqis and 170 Afghans. A practice contrary to the position taken by the European Parliament and Unhcr.
Block 10. "I’ve been detained here for 14 months and I did not committed any crime, is this Europe?" That’s what a refugee from Sierra Leone told in April 2006 in an interview registered at the Block 10 of the jail in Nicosia, Cyprus. Member of the European Union since May 2004, Cyprus hosts at least 110,000 immigrants, 15% of the resident population in the region under the Greek authority. In 2006 migrants intercepted by the police were 3,778, a 378% more than in 2005. Coming from Syria, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Bangladesh, Egypt, Turkey, but also from Africa. They left from Egypt or Turkey on cargo vessels often landing on the Turkish northern side of the island. Then they pass the "green line" and enter undocumented in the Greek region. They are held for months, sometimes for years, in degrading conditions. In October 2007, seven refugees detained in the Block 10 spent four days above the water tank tower of the prison, asking for political asylum. In January, seven Iraqis mounted atop a tower on the British bases at Episkopi, inside the city of Dhekelia, a region of Cyprus under British authority. They hoped it would secure them British passports. But at the end they were deported in Cyprus with their families (40 people including 22 children) even if they had lived in Dhekelia for the past seven years. The eviction operation started with the cutting of electricity and water supply. Then, windows and doors were removed and the houses demolished. Two weeks later, an activist of the Cypriot NGO Kisa, Doros Polycarpou, was arrested during a demonstration in Nicosia leaded by a group of Iraqi women asking for freedom for their husbands held in Block 10 for years. Throughout Europe it’s the same climate of revolt and repression.
The crackdown. Last January 23rd, in the Sicilian detention centre of Cassibile, in Syracuse, five Eritrean asylum seekers were arrested and charged of abduction for having blocked the gates of the centre for two hours, preventing operators to exit. It was a protest against the long period of waiting for their document. Someone is detained since three months. One week after, the Prefecture of Syracuse denied the permit to enter in the centre to the only journalist who asked for it. News of different hunger strike came from Belgium and from the detention camp on the island of Samos. And in Greece, which has been recently recalled for the respect of migrants human rights, a 27 years old Bengali arrested in Athens attempted suicide fearing to be expelled. Bad news come also from Israel, where a thousand asylum seekers, mostly Sudaneses and Eritreans, entered undocumented from the Egyptian border, have been held for months in the Ktsiyot prison, a tents camp in the desert of Negev. In Poland, migrants continue to loose themselves among the snows along the border. Malta is again under the spotlight for new allegations of "inhumane" detention of migrants, released by the EU Libe Commission. And even Sweden is ready to repatriate about 500 Afghans. It does not go better in Melilla, where two members of "Prodein” Ngo were sued by the Spanish government of the enclave for defamation for a service transmitted by Tve on the centre for unaccompanied children in the city. In France it is the revolt. Since mid-December migrants detained in Mesnil-Amelot and Vincennes centres are carrying out hunger strikes and refuse to enter in the rooms. They protest against detention conditions and against the brutality of the policemen. French associations are backing the protest. On the website of Pajol you can follow the evolution of the revolt. The bulletins say police beat the leaders of the protest. Many migrants have been placed under isolation; others have been repatriated. In the meanwhile the French president Sarkozy gave the target of 25,000 expulsions for 2008. That means more arrests and raids. On the streets, in the airports, and in Calais, where the situation precipitated.
Liberté, égalité, fraternité. Ngos reports from Calais talk about continuous beatings and abuses practiced by officials of the security forces against hundreds of refugees. Refugees live in barracks and tents in the woods around the city, trying every night to hide themselves on the lorries boarding to Dover, in England. Marie Noëlle Gues, member of a French association, was arrested last October 23rd, near Calais, after she took a picture of two CRS agents (Compagnie républicaine de sécurité) who were beating a refugee. Held in custody for 24 hours, she was fined 1,500 euros and risks one month of prison in a trial that is going to start in February