02 February 2007

January 2007

ROME - 45 victims of illegal migration in January. 3 people died in Canary islands, in Spain, and 7 ones in a shipwreck in Greece, while in Algeria 33 people drowned sailing to Sardinia. In Morocco a pregnant woman was raped by a policeman and lost her child during the Christmas collective deportations. And in Brussels a frozen body was found in the vain undercarriage of an airplane where a Gambian boy was hidden to reach Europe. Since 1988 at least 7,180 people have died trying illegally to enter European union, including 2,141 missing ones. The 2006 was the worst year: 1,582 victims against the 822 in 2005 and the 564 in 2004.

‘Eid-ul-Adha. Blood, goat and fireworks. It’s the 31 December 2006, the muslim world is celebrating the festival of sacrifice (eid-ul-adha) and all over the world people welcome the new year. What a great opportunity in order to burn the frontier, they will have thought in Annaba, 500 km east from Alger. In few hours at least 60 harraga - those who burn, as illegal migrants are called in Arabic – get in a pair of stolen boats at Sidi Salem and take the new route to Europe, sailing to Sardinia island, in Italy, 180 km northerly. The day after they are in Teulada. Same route, two weeks later, for 60 other Algerian rescued off Cagliari the 16 January. During the last years illegal migrants used to reach to island hidden aboard cargo vessel. The first disembarkation is that of 30 August 2006, when a boat with 17 passengers aboard landed among the tourists on Santa Margherita di Pula’s beach, in Cagliari. At the beginning people thought it was a helmsman mistake. But since then at least 189 Algerian young people have arrived. And the events could be linked to the increase of the patrolling along the western coasts of Oran, well known as a point of boarding to Spain, and where during 2006 at least 42 people drowned and 27 ones were missing. Sardinia could be deadly too. According to Algerian authorities the bodies of 33 drowned people were found in January in Annaba sea, along new Sardinia routes.

The good results. According to the Italian Minister of Internal Affairs, Giuliano Amato, the cooperation with Libya “is giving good results”. The 18 January 190 candidates to illegal migration toward Sicily were arrested in Tripoli. 99 Egyptians, 43 Moroccans, 10 Sudanese, 27 Eritreans, 4 Ethiopians, 3 Bangladeshi and 2 Tunisians. For them hell have just started. Human Rights Watch and Afvic have denounced during 2006 migrants abuses practiced by Libyan police in migrants detention centres, three of which are financed by Italy. Arbitrary arrests, lack of jugement, tortures, forced works and death penalty. But the European union is disposed to come down to pacts with the devil. Qaddafi colonel - rehabilitated on the international scene thanks to gas and illegal migrants - after Tripoli conference took play seriously. In the first two weeks of January 878 harraga were arrested in Libya and 1,536 were deported. Since 15 September 8.336 people have been deported. Once back in their Countries of origin, many asylum seekers risk their life, especially in Sudan and Eritrea. For others, in Niger, Sudan, Chad and Egypt, the expulsion simply means to be abandoned in the Sahara.

The witch hunt. Rabat has cleaned down the Spanish courtyard. Between 23 and 29 December 2006 at least 450 foreigners - arrested during night raids in Rabat (260) and Nador (60) or detained in Laayoun migrants detention centre (200) – were abandoned in a desert area, along Algerian border not far from Oujda. Among them 10 women, 3 of them pregnant, and 11 children, one disabled. The first days of January about 400 people managed to reach Oujda by foot. Their witnesses are the evidences of the abuses practiced by the new European Union’s gendarme. Transported by bus to the border, deportees were abandoned in little groups in different points in the desert area and forced to continue by foot towards Algeria, threatened by shots in the air. But after few kilometres they were forced in the same way to turn back as the Algerian soldiers started shooting on the air. Blockaded between the two fires, a group was attacked in the night by Algerian soldiers, who took 3 women and raped them. They are not the only ones. At least 6 women denounced having been raped by the Moroccan and Algerian policemen, and also by a Nigerian gang at the border, accustomed to assault the deportees groups. One of them was sixth month pregnant, and lost her child after the violence. Today hundreds of people are sleeping on the ground, under zero, in Oujda university campus. Many of them hit with Moroccan police clubs has hurts on their head as under the feet. And Oujda authorities don’t allow them to take a bus to Rabat.
All the deported are black, from different African Countries. Even if the majority don’t have any document, there are also few tourists and students with regular visa on their passport, and 10 refugees and 60 asylum seekers under the United nations high commissariat for refugees (Unhcr) protection. Unfortunately Unhcr did not move a finger, apart from some tardy declaration, the 8 January, and a coverlet package sent to Oujda, inasmuch as Morocco does not allow Un employees to leave Rabat.

It is not the first time. In December 2002 the bodies of 8 deportees people frozen to death were found in Oujda. In October 2005 more than 1,500 people arrested in Bel Younes and Gourougou wood around Ceuta and Melilla were abandoned in the middle of the desert at ‘Ain Chouatar, on the Algerian border. Only an immediate intervention of Moroccan human rights associations avoided a slaughter. One month later Algeria arrested hundreds of migrants in Maghnia, 13 km from Oujda, and loaded them on military trucks towards a unknown destination. One year later many of them are still there, in Tinzaouatine, in the middle of Sahara, Mali-Algeria frontier. Who reached to escape talks about “the city where god does not exist”. Who is still there, every day risks to add his name to the epitaph of 1,047 Africans died in the Sahara on the road to Europe.

We need helicopters. Ships, airplanes and helicopters. European union vice-president Franco Frattini ask for it in order “to avoid new flows of immigrants”. While nothing moves in order to facilitate legal entries opportunity for Africans neighbours, Brussels insists. The strategy is clear: humanise the repression in Europe and seal the frontiers. While in Oujda desert Algerian soldiers raped three women, in Italy the Gradisca migrants detention centre obtained an ethics certification and in Las Palmas Hera II results were shown. Hera II, a European patrolling operation along Mauritania and Senegal’s coasts started the 11 August 2006, finally finished the 15 December. 57 cayucos were intercepted and 3,887 passengers forced to turn back towards the African coasts, while in the same period 246 boat with 14,572 people aboard reach Canary islands. Cost of the operation: 3,5 million euro and 82 deaths. In fact at least 2 pirogues rejected in the sea lost half of people aboard because of dehydration and hypothermia suffered before to reach again the coast. And many tens of boat started sailing up to 300 km off African coast to avoid patrolling, along longer and more dangerous routes. It only need to have a good engine, a gps and a grigri. It's time to move, it's time to die.