02 July 2007

June 2007

ROME - 154 victims of the illegal migration in one month, including at least 7 women and 3 children. The bodies recovered from the sea are only 41, the others 113 are missing on the bottoms of the Mediterranean. 118 people died in the Sicily Channel; 28 on the routes to Sardinia, in Algeria; 4 on the way for Canary islands and 2 ones in the Aegean sea. In France a man has been found dead in the truck where he travelled hidden towards England, while in Spain a 23 years old guy died during a deportation flight to Nigeria. Arrivals keep on decreasing in Spain as in Italy, but not in Malta. Meanwhile in Libya 2.137 migrants were arrested in the month of May.

A common grave. The massacre of the Sicily Channel goes on. The arrivals in Lampedusa halved, while Malta saw 900 arrivals only during May and June comparing to the 1,780 in all 2006. But the dead list keep getting longer. Already 249 people died along the Libyan routes since the beginning of 2007, against the 302 during all 2006. In the sea bottoms between Malta, Sicily and Libya, lie down the corpses of 1.316 of the 2,178 migrants drowned here since 1994, according to the Fortress Europe report. Waves continue to give back the bodies of ghost shipwrecks. Twenty-one bodies had already been found in the sea from the French Navy ship “La Motte Picquet” the 31th May, when the 17th June other 14 corpses were found 60 miles at south of Lampedusa. And the 21st June 4 bodies were recovered off Malta. And 2 one were washed ashore at Dingli and Mgarr the 26th. Even in Zarzis, in Tunisia, the fishermen found the rests of the last 2 victims of the crossing. And then there are the people reported to be missing. At least 92 the last month, including the 20 drowned the 5th June off the Algerian coasts, close to the Tunisian border, on their way to Sardinia. Figures which made the European Union and the press strongly accuse Malta.

Captain courage. A group of 20 illegal immigrants probably owe their life to a resolute Maltese fisherman who defied the orders of the Maltese authorities to take them to Libya. Fisherman Raymond Bugeja said he was prepared to bring the migrants to Malta and risk arrest if that meant saving human lives. The morning of the 29th June, 20 migrants ended on a tuna pen walkway after their boat capsized. The pen was being towed by Bugeja’s boat, the Eyborg. A woman had died and her body was being kept in the vessel's. At least 7 people were missing into sea. Instructed to ferry them to the nearest port in Libya, he refused. "Are they crazy? Libya it’s not the right place to give them assistance. Do they want to give these poor people a slow death” he wondered. The shipwrecked came from Ethiopia, Eritrea, Sudan and Nigeria.

Captain shame. Two weeks before, the 11th June, the captain of an Iranian cargo vessel refused to rescue 25 migrants in the stormy sea, 47 miles off Libyan coast. The alarm was raised through a satellite phones. Malta informed Libya, but Tripoli refused to dispatch search vessels, because of rough seas. And then the Iranian freighter, steaming only 26 miles away, refused to go to the migrants' assistance, the master fearing that the migrants might be armed. When, two days after, Libya sent an airplane in recognition, it was already too late.

Bugeja has reason. Libya is not the right place to bring back migrants. If the Eyborg did it, the 20 shipwrecked would have made the end of the 25 rescued the 15th June by the Spanish fishing boat “Nuestra Madre”, brought to Tripoli. Their names join the list of the 2,137 migrants arrested by the Libyan police just in the month of May. Since September 2006 at least 12,000 foreigners have been arrested in Libya, according to official figures. Detained for months, men, women and even children, without any distinction for refugees under the protection of Unhcr in Tripoli. Last month, Fortress Europe documented the detention, from six months, of 400 Eritreans, Ethiopians and Somalis, in Misratah jail, including 50 women, 7 children and 3 refugees. One month after their destiny is not known. Normally they would have been transferred to Kufrah detention centre, as well documented by the recent book “Mamadou va a morire” - Gabriele Del Grande, Infinito edizioni -, close to the Sudanese border. The Kufrah detention centre, financed by Italy, is known for tortures and abuses practiced against migrants here detained. It has been denounced by Human Rights Watch, Afvic and by “Mamadou ma a morire”. From Kufrah leave the trucks of deported then abandoned in the middle of the desert at the border with Sudan.

Nautilus II has started. It began the 25th June off Malta. Malta, Italy, Greece, Spain, France and Germany are participating to the patrolling which will last at least 5 weeks. “Nobody will be rejected in Libya” assures Frontex from Warsaw. Technically they can’t because Libya does not take part to the operations and therefore the patrols do not operate in Libyan waters. International maritime law does not avoid anyone to seal in international waters. But at the same time, international maritime law ask the closest port to receive the boats rescued. In conclusion, boats intercepted in Libyan “search and rescue” waters, could be led back towards Tripoli, as for the Bugeja case. Doesn’t matter if aboard there are asylum seekers or refugees. Because at the border, the only European solidarity is that one invoked by the vice-president Franco Frattini when he asks for more ships and helicopters, whishing permanent patrols, as foreshadowed by the Frontex Hera operation renewal in the Atlantic, in spite of a decreasing of 62% of the arrivals in Canary islands. It is a kind of war against the illegal migration. And the daily chronicle confirms it.

War bulletin. In Spain a man died during his deportation flight. Osamuyia Aikpitanhi, Nigerian, was born in 1984. He has suffocated on the Madrid-Lagos flight of the 9th June. It was the third attempt of boarding, because of his violent resistance. Policemen lost the patience. They put a rag into his mouth and bound it with various turns of adhesive tape. Few minutes after, that rag choked him. In Mauritania they are still detained, after 4 months, 23 passengers of the “Marine I”, the ship intercepted the 12th February 2007 in Mauritanian waters, with 370 Asian people aboard sealing to Canary. They refuse to identify themselves. A Cear report denounces the “worrying state of depression” of these people. In Morocco arrests and deportations continue. The last 28 Algerians recently arrested at Ceuta border with false passports and repatriated, told about women and children detained in Tétouan. In the Western Sahara, at least 62 sub-Saharan migrants have been arrested on the way to Canary island and then deported to the Algerian border, at Oujda.

In Turkey is not better. Since the beginning of 2007, at least 1,800 migrants have been arrested along the Aegean coasts, sailing to Greek islands, in a sea where this year 67 people have already died, the last 2 in Samos, the 11th June. Others 910 migrants have been arrested between half May and the beginning of June in the Frontex Poseidon operation, at the border between Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey, and between Greece and Albania. The majority coming from Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq, that is from war Countries. Last year Greece expelled 80,000 persons. Particularly worrying are the conditions of migrants detention centres in Greece. Often they are old warehouses, overcrowded and unhealthy, as those of the islands of Mitilini, Hios, Samos, Kos, Rhodos, Evia and in the city of Volos. Sometimes they are simply police stations in the border zones, as in the center of Athens, like Alexandras Avenue, Exarchia, Omonia, Piraeus, recently denounced in a video published on Youtube, where two policemen beat two Albanian boys. Other ten centres are located in the province of Evros, along the frontier with Turkey (map), where a new structure with 1.000 places is under construction. Maybe also the 4 Iraqis Kurds found in France, the 13th June, hidden in the hull of an off-shore transported on a truck led to England, had spent some weeks in these centres. The truck driver found them at Saint Michel de Maurienne, in Savoia, close to the Italian frontier. But it was already too late. One of them was dead, suffocated.