It is a tragic routine that has been happening already for too many years, which conjures images of ships full of people in inhumane conditions, shipwrecks, death and desperation. The future of those who make it to the Italian coast is detention in concentration camps of all kinds, and the difficulties of seeking asylum. And those who succeed in getting the documentation, are simply abandoned to themeselves. It is a sad state of affairs when societies get used to it, look for scapegoats, and respond with security measures. Behind the news, the figures , are men, children and women whose human rights must be respected. Yet, they suffer violations and deprivation when thy are turned into material for political dialectics, a contentious issue in electoral campaigns, blurry images of a video that shows them dead and embraced with each other in the depths of the Mediterranean Sea. Confronted with the suffering of others we should be able take a position. The dead of today are only a link in a long chain that started as far as we- Italians – are concerned, with the sinking of a ship loaded with Albanians by the Italian Navy in 1997.
These deaths are the side effects of an international context where the greed to get natural resources by a few generates misery, ecological disasters, wars, and increased weapon production, both conventional and nuclear.
The migration of many who come traveling thousands of miles to get to the shores of the Mediterranean Sea is a direct result of this situation. But those many are only part of the many more who are – on the one hand – forced to leave their countries of origin, and on the other, stopped by the European Union’s policies on immigration, the effect of bilateral agreements between the EU and countries on the Southern shore, whose governments are not always democratic. Many others will be captured and returned to the authorities in their countries or simply will die of starvation and thirst in the ocean or in the Sahara desert. All this happens in the context of the FRONTEX program.
Operation “Mare Nostrum” (Our Sea), while providing first aid to thousands of people, has evident limitations, being the beginning of a route that condemns refugees and migrants to being invisible or simply missing.
This perverse spiral of violence has generated tens of thousands of victims. Indignation is not enough, not even the law and the use thereof have been able to ensure truth and justice to the families of the victims . Nobody has been made responsible for these atrocities neither civilian nor government and institutions. It is the political vision of states, the European Union, the United Nations, that are responsible for generating the disappearance of those who venture the desert or the Mediterranean ocean. This can no longer be hidden: this great frontier is a wall that contains and filters humanity, violating peoples’ fundamental rights, generating hierarchies and exploitation. In a few words, the Mediterranean is the black hole of Europe, a continent that doesn’t know how to be in solidarity or doesn’t want to be, obsessed as it currently is with borders control, encouraged by nationalism, racism and xenophobia.
Obsession for security and racism are two sides of the same coin and can only be defeated using the instruments of law and politics. We, activists, representatives of migrant organizations, relatives of the “disappeared” , jurists, members of civil society, say that this situation can no longer be tolerated. Therefore we ask governments, the European Union, international organizations, movements, NGOs, and all those who care about the dignity and rights of people to stop this situation. We do it now in the very moment when the Italian government assumes the presidency of the European Union because we believe that the respect and defense of human rights should be the foundation of the European project, and these must be reaffirmed and defended permanently.
It is time to clarify responsibilities and attribute them to the right people. In this direction, we propose the establishment of an international tribunal of opinion, similar to the Russell Tribunal and the Peoples’ Permanent Tribunal , that would give the relatives of the “disappeared” migrants the possibility to offer their testimonies and representation. This tribunal must be empowered to represent the victims on all legal institutions at the local, national, community, European and international level. We want to know the truth, denounce those responsible of atrocities and deliver justice to the victims and their relatives.
We demand the right to be informed about the agreement on the control of the borders between the European States and other countries and what is expected of those countries; about military and police cooperation between the countries of origin and transit of migrants; about the rules of contracting and establishment of police forces and units that confront what they call “clandestine migration”; we want to know the real engagement of those forces and units in the tragedies suffered by migrants; we want to know about detention and control camps located in transit countries.
We have to stop the misinformation and disinformation cycles that generate indifference and impotence. We have to unite peoples to be able to listen, in the first place, the voices of those directly affected by these policies: refugees, migrants, victims and witnesses.
We demand that the European Union use all necessary means to stop this massacre, establishing a common policy for asylum and welcoming, to open channels for people escaping situations of conflict or grave violations of human rights so that thousands of migrants don’t fall prey to oppression and exploitation by human traffickers.
We asked the European Union and the European Parliament and Member States to form commissions to investigate the situation of the missing and also that the Convention of the U.N. On the Rights of Migrant Workers and Their Families be signed and ratified. We also ask that Law 2008 known as the Directive for Repatriation be abolished, because of its shameful and repressive character.
We also ask that all institutions work to guarantee the right of the victims to be identified and to offer their relatives a place of mourning, in the ultimate attempt to ensure the rightful human dignity of the “disappeared”.