1 The Italian Bishop’s conference ends the unprecedented standoff over the Diciotti, held in Catania for a week with 150 migrants on board
The odyssey of the Italian Coast Guard ship Diciotti ended last Saturday night, when all the 150 rescued migrants onboard were finally disembarked. News of the intervention by the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI) broke soon after it was announced that a formal investigation had been launched into Interior Minister Salvini, and following the resignation of Stefano Vella, president of the Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA), who had described the standoff as “intolerable”.
La Chiesa italiana, non lo Stato, accoglierà gran parte dei profughi della #Diciotti. L'accordo è stato raggiunto per porre fine alle sofferenze di queste persone in mare da giorni.
Sono felice di essere un #prete di questa #Chiesa della nostra #Italia https://t.co/sj25rEKcOq
— Antonio Spadaro (@antoniospadaro) August 25, 2018
This is the song of the Eritrean women on board upon learning that the situation had been resolved.
On August 16, the Diciotti had taken on board 190 people rescued by Italian patrol boats, and after being left waiting off the coast of Lampedusa for four days, it had been held outside the port of Catania since August 20, because the Italian government would not allow it to disembark the remaining passengers, all of them escaped from Libyan detention camps. Thirteen of them had been already disembarked in Malta on a medical emergency soon after the rescue.
Currently, no less than three prosecutors are investigating the facts. La Repubblica has published a report on the laws that were violated under Salvini’s orders.
Agrigento prosecutor Luigi Patronaggio was the first to visit the ship on August 22, and he was considering launching an investigation for unlawful detention and kidnapping. On August 23, 27 minors were allowed to disembark in Catania at the urging of the National Authority for Children and Adolescents and civil society groups, who had called on MPs to visit the ship. An aid worker with the NGO Terre des Hommes met with the disembarked minors: “We received 27 little skeletons”, she stated multiple times in her report, describing their conditions. Psychologist Nathalie Leiba from Médecins Sans Frontières treated the minors: “One of them could not see well, his pupils were dilated, he told us he had been kept in darkness for a year “, she said.
After visiting the ship, +Europa MP Riccardo Magi revealed that Commander Massimo Kothmeir of the Diciotti told him he had feared being arrested upon disembarking in Catania; he had never received written orders, but had learned of the refusal to dock from social media, and he had realised the situation was highly unusual early on, when his ship had been called to transport the 177 rescued migrants, instead of having them brought to land on the same patrol boats that had rescued them. At any rate, the Diciotti – which has a glorious history of rescue operations, as Marta Serafini wrote in Corriere della Sera – is not equipped to treat people in such a state of distress, malnourished, traumatised and suffering from scabies.
Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who spoke only on private platforms, never through the official Ministry channels, argued (contrary to all existing regulations, and despite the high number of Eritreans on board who were automatically entitled to asylum) that processing the migrants’ asylum applications was a job for the other EU governments. President of the Chamber of Deputies Roberto Fico had called for all the migrants to be released, as had the President of the Republic himself.
Hundreds of people gathered every night at the port in Catania calling for the migrants to be released; everything started with a protest on August 22 before the minors were disembarked, when citizens brought 177 arancini (typical Sicilian stuffed rice balls) one for each of the migrants on the ship.
— Luca Salici (@lucasalici) August 22, 2018
Avvenire has published a series of photographs detailing the daily life of the 150 migrants on board. The story of the Italian Coast Guard ship has been covered in the Guardian and by CNN, but did not gain much traction in European media.
News broke out on Friday that the migrants on board the ship had gone on a hunger strike. Since the case of the Diciotti, almost twice as many migrants have been rescued and taken to Italy with no controversy.
2. Malta rescues 100 people at sea
Meanwhile, on August 22, Maltese Prime Minister Muscat announced on Twitter that Malta’s armed forces had rescued 100 people and brought in two corpses – likely in response to the Italian government’s accusation of not doing enough in the migrant rescue effort. Read an in-depth article on the situation in Malta in Refugees Deeply.
3. Italy spent at least 200,000 euros in EU funds to escort the Aquarius to Spain
Denying the Aquarius permission to disembark 630 rescued migrants on June 10 and having it escorted all the way to Spain by the Italian military vessels Dattilo and Orione has cost Italy at least 200,000 euro in EU funds, but the final amount might be closer to 300,000 – an “exorbitant” price, according to a former Italian coast Guard commander. Read the article by Matteo Civillini in EUObserver (an extended version will be published in Italian on Open Migration on August 30).
Meanwhile, the Aquarius arrived in Malta on August 23 with rescued people on board, after waiting again several days for a safe docking port.
4. Sea arrivals surge in Spain, amid government good will and pushbacks
As researcher Nando Sigona tweeted recently, there is no direct link between
the reduced migrant flow towards Italy and the increase in arrivals in Spain. Nonetheless, as we told last week in a report by Mario Magarò for Open Migration with our infographics, the surge of sea arrivals in Spain is real, and the policies of the Sánchez government are being put to the test. On August 22, the border fence at Ceuta was stormed again, sparking clashes with the police.
5. The continuing odyssey on the Balkan route, in Bosnia
Countries blocking the Balkan route are making things harder in Bosnia at the Croatian border, where 4,000 people are crammed in poor humanitarian conditions and subject to frequent pushbacks. Read the article in Vita. Writing in Osservatorio Diritti, Lorenzo Bagnoli documents the ordeal of a father from Iraqi Kurdistan and his 9-month journey with his family through Turkey, Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia to reach Trieste.
6. Are voluntary departures really voluntary?
A new in-depth report from the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) details the EU practices in the growing area of voluntary departures and assisted returns to the migrants’ countries of origin.
Read the full report here.
7. Heated debate on migration in Germany
Read the article by Andrea M. Jarach in Gli Stati Generali. There are suspicions of mismanagement at the Bremen office of BAMF, the Federal Agency for Migration and Refugees, where asylum decisions might have been illegally revoked after approval.
8. Sweden’s economy is getting a lift from migrants
Growth in Sweden is running well above the rest of the EU. In an article from Bloomberg, Rafaela Lindeberg argues that this is due to the large contribution given by immigrants (especially from Syria) to the nation’s economy over the last few years. Something that is being lost amid the political rhetoric in the lead-up to the general election on September 8, where the anti-immigrant far right appears poised to win the largest number of seats.
9. Critical living conditions at the CPRs in Bari and Brindisi
A new monitoring report has been released on the living conditions for people in the CPRs in Bari and Brindisi, and it paints a very critical picture.
10. A play for the Calais Jungle
A theatrical production tells the story of the huge encampment of migrants from around the world that was formed at Calais in all its complexity. Paola Caridi went to see “The Jungle” at the London Playhouse Theatre, and wrote about it in her blog.
Cover image: the “arancini protest” at Catania harbour, asking for the migrants to be allowed to disembark from the Italian ship Diciotti (photo by Luca Salici)