Two NGOs boat that are still operating in the Mediterranean are being denied access to any port, 49 people on board including children are at sea two weeks after they were first rescued. 49 people held hostages of the European States, to use the same words of Sea watch. Malta has allowed the Sea Watch and the Sea Eye to shelter from a storm but not to disembark their human cargo. A shameful ping-pong game continues, as no nation wants to take responsibility for these people. It is very distressing for them, especially for the children. Neatherlands offered to take some, providing other EU countries step in, and the Italian minister Di Maio offered to take the women and children only , but his colleague Salvini, the Interior minister, refuses to take anybody – and the women and children onboard do not want to be separated from the others. Salvini closed the Italian ports for first, and people resuced had to be taken to other countries, mainly Spain – on whose shores the NGO ship Open Arms disembarked 310 on the 28th December. https://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/national/91861/christmas_at_sea_344_people_rescued_with_no_safe_port_as_ngo_fears_deterioration_in_weather?fbclid=IwAR2VEbYHz0mf19zYwTefXHEkrVVyu2TH2zexMH_FxWYXeX0mXAZeHv-N6-w#
Many more people are pushed back to Libya. Several resuce ships have been forced to stop activity, including recently the Aquarius, as no nation would give it a banner.
Demonstrations are being held in Torino, Neaples, Bologna, demanding the opening of the ports and that the migrants stranded at sea can finally land, and protests and solidarity actions continue in several other Italian cities.
The Italian right wing governemnt, de facto headed by Salvini, is meanwhile facing a revolt by mayors over the so called ‘decreto sicurezza’, a new package of restrictive measures against refugees and other migrants that has been ratified by parliament. The decree curtails the right to asylum and erases humanitarian protection, that allowed many who did not qualify for asylum to stay in Italy on a temporary basis. The Salvini decree also attacks the right to housing, and many migrants including families with young children have been evicted from their accommodation and thrown in the streets before Christmas. Drastic cuts not only to accommodation, but to language classes, services, everything that goes towards integration. A particularly controversial point is the lack of access to healthcare provisions for those who have no residence papers, including asylum seekers – healthcare is a right guaranteed by the Constitution, and healthcare provisions are a competence of the presidents of the Regions. The mayor of Palermo, Leoluca Orlando, the mayors of Neaples, Florence and a large and growing number of other Italian cities are refusing to implement such measures, as they consider their implementation likely to create a state of illegality. The presidents of some regions have joined the mayors in revolt. The new decree could now be examined by the Court in charge of overseeing the Constitution, as there are claims that the Salvini decree violates the Constitution on some points. Far from providing more ‘security’, as its name promises, the decree creates more insecurity, pushes people to the very margins, stuggling for survival, and leaves them open to exploitation.
The overall number of arrivals by sea has gone down very much, from over 1.000.000 in 2015, nearly 4000 dead or missing, to 116,295 arrivals in 2018, but deaths in proportion have risen very sharply, 2,262 in 2018 as journeys become more dangerous than ever (UNHCR data). People are forced to take longer and more dangerous routes. Arrivals in Italy’s main ports have decreased. Arrivals to Spain have greatly increased, 57,250 according to El Pais, equal to half of the total arrivals. 15,528 people arrived in Greece in 2018. Arrivals on small boats to Lampedusa and Sicily have also increased. This is not vey well known, but the mayor of Lampedusa Martello denounces there are hundreds of such arrivals; total silence from the part of Salvini, otherwise so vocal about boats’ arrivals. Shipwrecks have multiplied, with a peak in June/ July 2018 after the NGOs ships were prevented from operating, resulting in 600 dead in just 4 weeks. There are now three NGOs ships in the Mediterranean, other rescues being made by military ships and commercial vessels. https://www.eunews.it/2018/07/12/mediterraneo-record-naufragi-quattro-settimane-600-morti-la-meta-2018/107696
Particulary dangerous are the Libyan waters. The 17th November a botched rescue by the so called Libyan coastguard left 20 dead. The Sea Watch and other ships were at hand, but it was chosen to call the Libyans, who took back the boat without bothering to collect those who were in the water: some drowned, some were rescued by the Sea Watch. WATCH THE VIDEO https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/12/26/opinion/europe-migrant-crisis-mediterranean-libya.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share&fbclid=IwAR3V8pSi_b0iquO0k0O9kdEzRGgYtalfWb3mCnRuoTKXUNjmOp54vr3eqrI
Those fortunate enough not to drown are taken back to hell. The majority of those who arrive from Libya show clear signs of torture, besides the fact they are malnourished and underweight. A young Eritrean man died shortly after arriving, he weighted just 35 kg. About 50% of men have been beaten on the soles of their feet, a torture method known as falaka, that is very painful and leaves them barely able to stand and walk. The vast majority of women and girls are being gang raped in the Libyan camps. The UN have published a series of reports about the widespread use of torutre, rape, abysmal living conditions, overcrowding and lack of medical care. Many people are sold from one criminal group to another and held in unofficial and illegal centres run directly by armed groups or criminal gangs. “Countless migrants and refugees lost their lives during captivity by smugglers, after being shot, tortured to death, or simply left to die from starvation or medical neglect,” the report says. “Across Libya, unidentified bodies of migrants and refugees bearing gunshot wounds, torture marks and burns are frequently uncovered in rubbish bins, dry river beds, farms and the desert.”
The UN keep publishing reports and nothing changes. The UN has said it is not safe to return people to Libya, but they do not seem to act. People keep being sold in the slave markets or tortured to persuade their families to pay a ransom, else they get killed, slowly and in direct over the phone.
An asylum seeker who made it to the UK is taking the government to court over its participation in financing and mantaining the system of concentration camps in Libya, and the terrible human rights violations happening there. In fact the Libyan coastguard and the Libyan detention centres for migrants function with money and resources donated by Italy and Europe. The shameful price of policing the borders of Fortress Europe.