Italy: Mass escapes and protests in Lampedusa

source: Indymedia Roma , 24.01.2009 20:21
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Nearly 2000 persons were crammed in a centre that can barely contain 850, after a series of arrivals of boats from the African coast. People were locked behind gates and many were sleeping out in the rain because of overcrowding. The Interior Minister Maroni refused to move them to other structures operating in Italy, insisting they must be processed and eventually deported directly from Lampedusa, the small island south of Sicily that is the first point of arrival for many migrants, especially since increased immigration controls at the Spansh border have changed the migration routes. According to the blog Fortress Europe: '' At least 1,502 migrants have died at the gates of EU in 2008. The figures decreased by 23% compared to 2007, but not in Sicily, where the number of the victims rose from 556 in 2007 to 642 in 2008, coherently with an increase of 80% of the arrivals in Lampedusa.''

The 'centre of first reception' (Cpa) in Lampedusa also functions as a 'centre of identification and expulsion' (Cie). Further, following the 'emergency' caused by new arrivals, the minister Maroni ordered the opening of a new Cie, against which both the residents and the migrants are protesting, although for different reasons. The residents have been protesting for the last couple weeks or more. Yesterday the residents stopped a bus with 110 migrants directed to the new Cie and held a demonstration with some 4000 people taking part. Many migrants who had escaped from the existing centre joined the demo. Today the residents went on general strike. There seem to be no hostility against the migrants and many residents have been feeding and helping them after the mass escapes, that led to the centre being left empty this morning, after the remaining migrants in the centre tore the gates down. Amazingly, there were no police force in sight (over 1000 cops are present on the island.) 700 migrants had already escaped yesterday. The police and carabinieri stood by as the migrants marched towards the Town Hall shouting 'Freedom' and 'Please help us'. The migrants would like to be left free to continue their jouney.

Amnesty International, Save The Children, Cir, Asgi, Medicines Sans Frontieres and other associations had already denounced the situation in Lampedusa and the possibility of serious human rights violations.

The UNHCR had also expressed their concern, since many of the men women and children confined in Lampedusa are refugees.

Berlusconi has reassured the residents of Lampedusa that 'the situation is under control' and the thousand or so migrants just went out for a bier 'as usual' (before tearing down the gates they were locked in the centre and could not go out).

In the evening many of the escaped migrants have gone back to the centre, accompanied by residents and chanting 'freedom', but many are still out and free.

There have been a couple of minor incidents during the day, one involving an ambulance full of sandiwiches for the Cpa, trying to force its way past the residents' block, another involving a policeman who kicked a resident, apparently for no reason. In both cases the residents reacted.

26. Jan 2009, LAMPEDUSA: 78 women transferred to the ex- NATO base Loran, that will be transformed in a 'centre of identification and expulsion'. 16 women 12 from Tunisia and four from Morocco are on hunger strike against their possible expulsion. In the centre there are also some women form Nigeria some of whom are seeking political asylum. (ANSA)

Minister Maroni in Tunisia today to negotiate accords of re-admission.
Tomorrow general strike by Lampeusa residents. Government attacks the Mayor who is 'leading'? the protest (he used to be a racist).

Tomorrow general strike of Lampedusa residents. Some 50 migrants who have not returned to the 'reception' centre are still sheltering on the island and the locals are feeding them. Solidarity restored after the Lega Nord's work of promoting racism on the island. (traditionally local people have always helped and fed the migrants, fishermen saving people from boat wrecks and so).

26. Jan 2009, MASSA (Marina di Massa, Tuscany): Police and carabinieri in riot geat attack a demonstration by refugees mainly from Somalia and Eritrea. Some refugees were injuried other forcibly taken by the cops to the Red Cross centre where they were staying. About 50 people, amongst whom many women, were protesting for delay in examining their request for recognition of political refugee and permit to stay. They occupied the centre of the town blocking the traffic and refused to move, asking to see a representative from Onu, and in the meantime decleared they are on hunger strike. Many of the refugees were part of a group of 104 persons arrived in August from Lampedusa

25. Jan 2009, ROME (Guidonia is a village in the outskirts of Rome): Following the vicious rape of a woman in Guidonia by a group of men, supposedly eastern Europeans, police went to search all 'illegal' camps where migrants from Romania and other homeless migrants are reduced to live in shacks.

The fascists from Forza Nuova organised a demonstration from which a group of about 20 fascists broke out to attack Eastern Europeans with sticks, clubs and banner pools . In one incident three Romanians were attacked, one other Romanian in another incident and five Albanians escaped but just being savagely beaten by sheltering in a pub behind a reinforced door with the owner of the pub. Two fascists were arrested.

31. Jan 2009, NATIONAL DEMONSTRATION IN ROME against the so called 'pacchetto sicurezza' that introduces or ratifies appaling measures against migrants and refugees. According to the new legistlation that is now being discussed in Parliament: entering the country or being found living there without documents becomes a law punishble by imprisonment; 'first reception centres' to become 'centres of identification and expulsion', and lenght of detention to be extended from 2 months to 18 months; renting accommodation to someone without papers becomes a crime (already in vigour); persons without papers are forbidden to send money home; everybody who goes to the hospital for treatement should be reported to Immigration if s/he has not got papers. (demo called by the migrants' orgainsations and social centres without the political parties trade unions etc.)