1. No ships left to help in the Mediterranean – the first protests
After the third shipwreck in a week, with the docking of the Open Arms in Barcelona to disembark 60 people rejected by Italy and the Sea Watch blocked in Malta with no legal or technical explanations given, there are no more rescue NGO vessels left in the Central Mediterranean, nor eyes to witness what actually happens during “rescue” operations by the Libyan Coast Guard. Protests are starting to multiply, including a “No Borders” demonstration scheduled in Ventimiglia on July 14th (France’s Bastille Day) calling for the creation of a European residency permit – a protest that the City has authorised, but has been opposed by the mayor and ANCI.
On July 7 ANPI, ARCI, Libera, Legambiente and dozens other organisations called to everyone to wear a red shirt, in memory of the three children who drowned in one of the latest shipwrecks (mothers put red clothes on them so they are more visible at sea). The League has asked that RaiNews24 reporters who wore a red shirt be disciplined. Read the open letter by 200 intellectuals against the immigration policies of the new Italian government, described as “unconstitutional and racist”.
Meanwhile, after a first hearing in Malta, Lifeline captain Claus-Peter Reisch has been released on bail, but he is not allowed to leave the island. In addition to the Sea Watch ship, Maltese authorities have also blocked the civil search aircraft Moonbird, according to Malta Today. We told you its story here.
Meanwhile, the Italian military ship Diciotti disembarked 14 migrants at Pozzallo – Radio Radicale’s Sergio Scandura tweeted, and along with Avvenire’s Nello Scavo he reported about the apparent handing over of “rescued” migrants to the Libyan Coast Guard by a Turkish cargo ship.
Read the op-ed on the obstruction of rescue operations by Judith Sunderland of Human Rights Watch, while the IOM reminds us of the actual proportions between sea arrivals in recent years and the European population:
Arrivals by sea to EU:
2018 (until 3/7): 45.808
Total EU population: 500 million.
This is not a migration crisis, rather a humanitarian one: more than 16.000 migrants have died or gone missing at sea since 2014.
— IOM – UN Migration (@UNmigration) July 4, 2018
On Sunday evening, Transport Minister Toninelli, who is in charge of the Italian Coast Guard, defended the government’s decision to close the ports to NGOs (citing inaccurate information, despite official data being available to everyone on the Interior Ministry website), and commented on the arrival in Messina of an Irish EuNavforMed vessel with 106 rescued migrants on board by tweeting “This was forced on us by the crazy Sophia agreement with which Renzi sold out the interests of our country”.
2. Fewer departures from Libya, more deaths at sea – and human traffickers are just bidding their time
As Matteo Villa of ISPI tweeted, “Since June 1st, migrant attempted crossings from Libya have become the riskiest since accurate public recordings started in 2016”. This trend has already emerged clearly a few days before the shipwrecks, as shown by Laura Clarke and our infographics.
Even Libyans are turning to smugglers to escape terrible living conditions in their country, Francesca Mannocchi wrote in Refugees Deeply. And as four Libyan ports are closed amid charges of corruption, Nancy Porsia wrote in Open Migration about the human traffickers sanctioned by the UN, and the shifting allegiances and rivalries linked to Italy’s financial aid to Libya.
3. European Commission and Parliament send out harsh messages against the criminalisation of humanitarian assistance
“We are well aware of the inhumane situation for many migrants in Libya,” European Commission spokesperson Natasha Bertaud said last Monday, adding that there will never be repatriations by the EU to Libya, as that is against European values and international law.
According to Dunja Mijatović, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, it is time that European states “show that human rights, the rule of law and European values still matter” by putting human rights at the centre of their migration policies.
The European Parliament also took a stance by voting against the criminalisation of solidarity. In a non-legislative resolution, MEPs have highlighted concerns over the 2012 “Facilitation Directive”, under which EU Member States are required to introduce laws listing criminal penalties for anyone who “facilitates” the irregular entry, transit or residence of migrants. Member States have the option not to criminalise facilitation when it is humanitarian in nature; prosecution should not be pursued against individuals and civil society organisations assisting migrants for humanitarian reasons.
4. Government crisis over migrants ends in Germany
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who had threatened to resign unless tougher measures on asylum seekers were adopted, is still in his office. As speculation already arose on the opening of “migrant camps”, the closure of southern borders and the removal of all people who had applied for asylum elsewhere in the EU, Angela Merkel’s softer stance prevailed. No new transit zones, then, only a fast-track administrative process in the already existing centres. Seehofer – leader of Bavarian conservative party CSU – had called for tougher measures on migrants, fearing his party would lose to right-wing formations in the upcoming Bavarian state regional. This is a political crisis, since only 5 asylum seekers a day arrive at Germany’s southern border, as Il Post reminded.
5. Sudanese refugees evacuated in Rome
It’s been more than a year since the raid on via Curtatone – which left over 100 people on the streets – and following the recent evacuations on Via Vannina, July 5 saw the evacuation of a squat on via Scorticabove in Rome’s eastern suburbs. The evacuated building was home to about 100 Sudanese refugees, all documented, who had decided to occupy the building and manage things for themselves after “Casa della carità”, which had managed the facilities until 2015, went bankrupt. While awaiting to be reassured and know their fates, the Sudanese are still on the streets.
6. Humanitarian protection, INPS, Brenner Pass closure: Salvini’s overexposure in the media
Tighter criteria for granting humanitarian protection. Italian Interior Minister Salvini sent out a memo on July 4, believing that the two-year residency permit “for grave humanitarian reasons” is granted too easily. Entitled to humanitarian protection are mostly women and minors who face perilous crossings before reaching Italy. However, according to Il Fatto Quotidiano, if the memo intends to expedite processing and reduce the number of illegal immigrants, the very opposite would happen.
The same week saw the Interior Minister exchanged barbs with INPS director Tito Boeri on the role played by migrants in the social security system. When threatened to be replaced, Boeri responded by warning once again that Italy’s welfare and pension systems cannot do without the immigrants.
Salvini also commented on Austria’s threat to secure the border on the Brenner pass: “we stand to benefit from it”. Just as the tightening of border controls in Ventimiglia reminds of the troubles of a pre-Schengen Europe, doubts are raised about the so-called migrant emergency at the pass, two people were stopped in May, and none in June.
Interior Minister Salvini’s daily presence in the media, combined with his savvy handling of social media profiles, has ended up polarising the discourse on migration, just as a new Harvard research shows that people in Europe – including Italy – greatly overestimate the total number of immigrants.
7. Harsh new laws for immigrants in Denmark
The crackdown on immigrant communities in Denmark has become even tougher, with a new set of laws using the term “ghetto” to describe low-income immigrant neighbourhoods, and mandating that children spend at least 25 waking hours a week away from their families to receive instruction in “Danish values”. Noncompliers could see their welfare payments cut. Read about it in the New York Times. Over the last few years, Denmark has taken contradictory, controversial stances in a balancing act between its welfare and asylum systems. Last spring, Jose Arce, Julia Suárez-Krabbe and Annika Lindberg wrote for us about the dreadful limbo of Danish deportation camps.
8. USA: the lasting impact of detention on immigrant children
While a federal judge in California denied a request by the Trump administration to suspend the so-called sanctuary policies (cities where undocumented migrants are tolerated so they can find employment and have access to welfare services), hundreds of attorneys and interpreters are working near the Mexican border. One of them has described his typical day in the New York Times. Meanwhile, the psychological damage from detention of immigrant children will be long lasting, as Samuel Gilbert wrote in the Guardian from Santa Fe.
9. The tyranny of immigration data
Last week, Elizabeth Collett of the Migration Policy Institute penned a think piece in the Economist on how an overemphasis on numbers has led to shortsighted immigration policies. Numbers help government to measure a rapidly changing environment and male plans, but lately they have been mostly used for propaganda and to reassure voters.
10. What if protecting human rights doesn’t go hand in hand with definitions of what is “legal”?
You can find another interesting think piece this week in Vita, where Roberto Vacca argues that, when speaking of “irregular” migrants, protecting fundamental human rights should not be limited by narrow definitions of what is legal.
Cover photo via Welcoming Europe