Lampedusa : murderous Europe

Last Update 4 March 2014
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Opinion piece co-signed by Migrants rights & Human Rights NGOs and published in Libération (national French newspaper) on Ocotber 4th.
Lampedusa : murderous Europe
The new shipwreck of a boat coming from Libya in which at least 300 out of the 500 passengers perished or disappeared very near to the island of Lampedusa, was not caused by fate. In 2010, in the same place, two simultaneous shipwrecks resulted in close to 400 victims. In 2009, 200 people drowned in the high seas off the Sicilian coast. Only during the first six months of 2011, UNHCR estimated that 1,500 boat people had come to their deaths while they tried to reach the coasts of the island of Malta or Italy. Since the mid-1990s, the war undertaken by Europe against migrants has killed at least 20,000 people in the Mediterranean.

War ? How else could you name the deliberate establishment of border control mechanisms, in the name of the fight against irregular immigration, for the purpose of pushing back those who are driven out from their homes by misery and persecutions ? These mechanisms go under the name of Frontex, the European border agency which deploys its ships, helicopters, aeroplanes, radars, heat-seeking cameras since 2005 and will soon deploy its drones from the Strait of Gibraltar to the Greek islands to protect Europe from the “unwanted”. Or even Eurosur, a coordinated surveillance system which, since 2011, calls upon cutting edge technologies to militarise the European Union’s external borders in order to limit the number of irregular immigrants who penetrate them. How else could the collaboration that is imposed by Europe upon the migrants’ transit countries – Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco – in order for them to play the role of prison guards and dissuade them from taking the northward route, at the cost of round-ups, arrests, ill-treatment, kidnappings ?

The latest shipwreck in Lampedusa was more spectacular than usual because of its scale and it did not fail to draw the crocodile tears that are ritually poured out by the same people who are responsible for it. The day of national mourning decreed by Italy - a country whose governments, of the right and left alike have never ceased to approve agreements on migration with their neighbouring countries (even when dealing with Qaddafi’s and Ben Ali’s dictatorships) in order to be able to send the exiles back to them -, is echoed by the declarations by the European commissioner for internal affairs, who called for the speeding up of the implementation of Eurosur, which she argues is meant to provide better surveillance at sea of the refugees’ boats. Where will this hypocrisy stop ? There are few maritime spaces that are equipped with an observation and surveillance net that is as tight as in the Mediterranean. If rescuing were a priority - as required by the law of the sea - would we be complaining about so many shipwrecks between Libya and Lampedusa ?


Smugglers, mafias and human traffickers are already designated as the main guilty parties, as if the sinister business of those who profit from the imperious need that some migrants have of crossing the borders at any cost were not made possible and encouraged by the politicians who organise their closure. Must one recall that if some Syrians who are fleeing seek, risking their lives, to cross the Mediterranean, this is because the EU member states refuse to issue them visas that would enable them to legally come to request asylum in Europe ?

People are talking about fishermen who, having seen the boat that was adrift, continued along their way without assisting its passengers, and some voices were heard calling for them to be prosecuted and punished for failing to assist people who were in danger. Have they forgotten that in 2007, seven Tunisian fishermen accused of having “assisted the irregular entry of foreigners on Italian soil” were prosecuted by the Italian justice system, imprisoned and had their boat confiscated because they hand lent assistance to some migrants whose vessel was sinking, had taken them on board and transported them to Lampedusa ?

No, the tragedy of Lampedusa is not the fruit of fate. It is not due to greedy smugglers, nor to indifferent fishermen. The deaths in Lampedusa, like those from yesterday and from tomorrow, are the victims of a Europe that is locked to the point of obliviousness into a securitarian logic, which has renounced the values that it claims to defend. A murderous Europe.

First suscribers : Olivier Clochard, president of Migreurop, Stéphane Maugendre, president of Groupe d’information et de soutien des immigrés, France ; Abderrhamane Hedhili, president of Forum tunisien pour les droits économiques et sociaux, Tunisia ; Filippo Miraglia, Arci, Italie ; Mehdi Alioua, president of Groupe antiraciste de défense et d’accompagnement des étrangers et migrants, Morocco, et Karim Lahidji, president of the International Federation of human rights leagues – members of the coalition Boats4People ; Michel Tubiana, president of the Euro-Mediterranean Network for Human Rights

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