02 March 2008

February 2008

ROME – At least 36 migrants and refugees have died along the European borders during the month of February: 24 victims off the Moroccan coast, two in Spain, one in Ceuta and six in Algeria on the way to Sardinia. In Egypt, the police shot dead three asylum seekers who were trying to slip across the Sinai border into Israel. On the political level, Libya signed an agreement with Malta after that one with Italy. And also the EU opened negotiation with Tripoli for a framework agreement, while nobody says a word over the deportation of 200 Eritrean refugees repatriated from the Libyan prison of Kufrah. Meanwhile migrants repression goes on at the gates of Europe. At the south, in Algeria, a French priest and an Algerian doctor were arrested after they helped undocumented migrants in the slums of Maghnia. At the east, the readmission agreement between EU and Ukraine came into force, while the first EU collective deportation flight took off from Paris, towards Pakistan.

The pharaohs. Egyptian police killed an Eritrean woman and shot and wounded three other migrants as they tried to cross Egypt's desert frontier and enter Israel illegally. It was the 25th February 2008. The death brings to six the number of African migrants who have been killed along this border since the start of the year. Thousands of migrants try to cross into Israel from Egypt each year, 7.500 just during 2007, mainly from Sudan and a growing number from Eritrea and Ivory Coast. Held for months in overcrowded detention camps, in the south of Israel, they now risk to be readmitted in Egypt. In fact Tel Aviv has recently decided to deport them in Egypt. Yes in Egypt, the “safe country” where the 30th December 2005, in Cairo, riot police rushed into a crowd of unarmed Sudanese refugees, killing 25 people, including a 4 years old child, after the group refused to leave the “Mustafa Mahmoud” public park it had occupied for three months hoping to pressure United nations to relocate them.

Asmara. About 200 Eritrean refugees were repatriated in February from Libya to Eritrea.
They were held in the detention camp of Kufrah, in the south of the country. The news were reported by the Eritrean community in Rome. According to the relatives of seven refugees, the deported would be now kept in the jail of Wea, near Assab. What will happen to them? The documentary “Eritrea - Voice of Tortures” leaves no doubts. They are going to be tortured and maybe killed. And the same could happen to the 600 Eritrean refugees held in Misratah, since 2006. But who did pay the flight? Is it possible that a Country accustomed to leave migrants along the border in the middle of the desert, is disposed to spend money for their repatriation by flight? Did Eritrea paid for it? Or did Italy paid for it? It’s a legitimate question, because Italy have already did it. For example in 2004 with 109 Eritreans. More recently, Italy allocated 6,243,000 euros for a joint operation of sea patrol to be held in 2008 in the Libyan waters. The bilateral agreement of 29th December 2007 was ratified by the Libyan Government on 19th February and will shortly come into force. On the 27th January, Libya also signed an agreement with Malta for the rescue at sea. And opened the negotiations with the European Union for a framework agreement. Meanwhile at Tripoli, the dallala (how Ethiopians called the organisers of the crossings) are not wasting their time. The number of arrivals in Sicily in February were the highest of the last months: 1,855 people, six times the 355 who landed in February 2007. Everybody want to leave before the joint patrols come into force. The dallala risk their money. And the asylum seekers risk their lives.

Italian kidnapping. They asked for a faster examination of their application for political asylum, after three months spent in detention; they are now charged of kidnapping. It happened in Sicily, in the identification centre of Cassibile. It was the 23rd January 2008, ten o'clock in the morning, when a group of 110 Eritreans, in sign of protest, occupied for a couple of hours the courtyard in front of the gate of the entry of the camp, preventing three social workers from going out. Enough to be charged of abduction. After the first hearing, the trial will go on the 23rd May 2008. For a pacific demonstration, they risk a conditional sentence of 2 months and 20 days. But migrants repression is not just an Italian matter. In France, the protest in the detention camps in Vincennes, close to Paris, goes on: hunger strikes and revolts against the expulsions and the condition of detention. A French Ngo is in contact by telephone with the detainees and you can read daily reports on the Migreurop and Pajol website.

Amen. A conditional sentence of one year. Pierre Wallez would never have imagined that a prayer could cost him so much. But the court of Oran, in Algeria, decided like that. On 26th December 2007, the French catholic priest, celebrated a Christmas prayer among the catholic migrants in a slum at the outskirts of Maghnia, near the Moroccan border. Here live hundreds of sub-Saharan migrants in transit to Morocco, towards the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. As well as hundreds of migrants deported from Morocco every night, even during the last weeks. Wallez was well known in the slum. He often visited the camp during the last eight years, trying to help migrants. The 26th December has been the last time. On the 9th January he was arrested and charged for having celebrated a Mass in a place not recognised by the government, violating a presidential order on the regulation of non-Muslim worship dating back to February 28, 2006. But it is not a religious matter, let’s say it’s just a crime of solidarity. Actually that day the priest wasn’t alone in Maghnia. He was accompanied by an Algerian doctor, who also has been sentenced, charged for having stolen drugs from the health centre of Maghnia in order to care sick migrants: two years of jail with the conditional and a fine of 200.000 dinars.

There was once Dublin. Norway has suspended returns of asylum-seekers to Greece under the Dublin II Regulation. Greece is accused of violating the rights of refugees. The Regulation provides that the first member State that a migrant enters is the one responsible for examining his asylum application. But Greece is an unsafe Country. According to a “Pro Asyl” report released in October 2007, Greece is responsible for collective deportation of refugees in Turkey. Pro Asyl also documented abuses and tortures committed in the Greek migrants detention camps. Accusations confirmed by Amnesty International, which reported in February the stories of 13 Afghan asylum-seekers, eight of them minors, intercepted off the island of Mytilene on the 7th January 2008 by the Greek coastguard. Someone was beaten, slapped or kicked. The youngest two boys in the group, aged 9 and 13, said that they were physically ill-treated by the coastguards: the former complained of being punched and kicked while the latter said he was slapped around the face and head. Their belongings, including their bags and clothes, were slashed with a knife. Some were told to remove their clothes, which were thrown into the sea. Others were left in their underwear. Money and mobile telephones were seized. Then, they were put into rubber dinghies which did not have enough paddles and were punctured, and were told to make their way back to Turkey, at the risk of their lives.

Chaos in Patras. At the contrary of Norway, Italy keeps on returning refugees in Greece. Just from the port of Ancona, in February, at least 92 asylum seekers were returned in Patras, where arrests and deportations goes on. The Greek police has suspended the destruction of the camp which hosts about 700 refugees, mainly Afghans and Kurds, after 4,000 people demonstrated in support of refugees the 30th January. But the arrests continued. Greek associations reported that about 50 people a day are arrested in the street and near the port and sent to Athens. In the capital, after several days of detention they are released with the order to leave the Country. But according to other sources instead many refugees are transported towards the detention centres along the north eastern border with Turkey, in Filakio and Venna, waiting to be expelled to Turkey.

Pakistan International Airlines. It took off the 13th February from Paris towards Pakistan. It was the first EU collective deportation flight. Aboard there were undocumented Pakistanis kept in different countries: England, Holland, Spain and Slovenia. One flight for all, it’s cheaper. The French Ngo Cimade denounced "a collective expulsion", contrary to the Article 4 of the Fourth Protocol of the European Convention on Human Rights. "Ask the victims of the terrorist attacks of the election campaign if Pakistan is a safe country! – told the president of the “Ligue des droits de l'homme” (Ldh), Jean-Pierre Dubois - Who signed the acts of expulsion certainly would never send there his children". Dubois eded: "There are two standards for protection and rights: one for Europeans and another for the undesirable". There's little else to add. With the same hypocrisy, EU paid 53.4 millions euros to support the Turkish operations to contrast the illegal migration, while Turkey is simply bombing his illegal migrants, who are the Kurdish, the Iraqis and the Afghans who try to cross the border on the mountains of the districts of Van, where the Turkish army is fighting a war against Pkk.

The middle sea. There are no refugees at the borders. And if there are, Brussels is too far to see them. Official Journal of the European Union, on January 29, 2008. Page 24: "The agreement between the EU and Ukraine came into force". Ukraine is not a safe country. Human Rights Watch report "On the Margins" proofs it. And the more recent Ecre report confirms it. Chechens, Uzbeks and Pakistanis refugees are going to be expelled to Ukraine and from there repatriated. But Brussels does not see refugees. With the distance of bureaucracy, all become illegal. In a communication of the European Commission of 13 February 2008 on the evaluation and future development of Frontex, the word “refugee” is never mentioned in 12 pages. The Commission informs that "Frontex has concluded working arrangements aiming at establishing cooperation at technical level with border guard authorities in Russia, Ukraine and Switzerland. Negotiations are well advanced with Croatia. Mandates have been given by the Management Board to negotiate further arrangements with FYROM, Turkey, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, Cape Verde, Republic of Moldova and Georgia”. At the borders there aren’t any refugees and any minors. Doesn’t matter if the former governor of Ceuta has gone under trial accused of repatriation of unaccompanied minors to Morocco... At the border there aren’t any vulnerable people, but just some kind of hordes of barbarians. And so the Mediterranean, the sea in the "middle of the Earths", from a sea which connected two continents became a sea which divides them, a fence which risks to stop the already weak Barcelona process for Euro-Mediterranean partnership, since the only Euro-Mediterranean cooperation imagined today is that one of the joint patrols instead that one of investments for economic development of the entire area