Tag Archives: Sciabica

Migrants’ wishes

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I wish to become a writer so that anyone can know the truth. Hassan This pizzino is part of a series of migrants’ wishes collected in December 2013.

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Good morning to all Italian and migrant brothers and sisters. I wish a good health insurance and a job. This pizzino is part of a series of migrants’ wishes collected in December 2013.

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I need a job and a car to go to school. Karim This pizzino is part of a series of migrants’ wishes collected in December 2013.

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I wish I could study more and go to the high school so that I could learn to tell stories better. Hassan This pizzino is part of a series of migrants’ wishes collected in December 2013.

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Please I need work because I’d like that Italy is my country. Joseph Monday This pizzino is part of a series of migrants’ wishes collected in December 2013.

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I wish a house for me and my father. This pizzino is part of a series of migrants’ wishes collected in December 2013.

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I wish I could feel the support of Italian people and I wish I could have warm water. Zacaria. This pizzino is part of a series of migrants’ wishes collected in December 2013.

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I want a job, any kind of job. And I want to be fine in Italy. Nouhou This pizzino is part of a series of migrants’ wishes collected in December 2013.

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I want a house, a job and rights for all refugees and for Italians. I want them not to play with our life and future anymore. This pizzino is part of a series of migrants’ wishes collected in December 2013.

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My name is Jerry, I’m 18 years old. My dream is a good situation. I want my wife and my children to be Italian. This pizzino is part of a series of migrants’ wishes collected in December 2013.

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I want the internet, so that I can talk to my family. This pizzino is part of a series of migrants’ wishes collected in December 2013.

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To Sciabica: I want my rights as a refugee to be respected, I don’t want to feel invisible anymore. Hassan. This pizzino is part of a series of migrants’ wishes collected in December 2013.

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To Sciabica: I want to go back to Morocco. Hichan This pizzino is part of a series of migrants’ wishes collected in December 2013.

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I wish to have a good work at least to take good care of me. I wish to get married. I wish to go to driving school, so I can have a car. I wish to have children with a good wife. Long life. Wisdom. Good house. I wish to go to computer school. This pizzino is part of a series of migrants’ wishes collected in December 2013.

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To Sciabica: I wish some countrymen of mine could live with me. This pizzino is part of a series of migrants’ wishes collected in December 2013.

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To Sciabica: I would like to have a job from 2014. This pizzino is part of a series of migrants’ wishes collected in December 2013.

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To Sciabica: I wish my finger prints were deleted so that I would be free to find my way somewhere else. This pizzino is part of a series of migrants’ wishes collected in December 2013.

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To Sciabica: I want a job. We (black and white people) can build the future of this country. Stop racism. I wish to have a family, like an Italian. God bless Italy. Thank you. This pizzino is part of a series of migrants’ wishes collected in December 2013.

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A Sciabica: Io voglio tanto amore. Mohamed Amin Questo pizzino è parte di una serie di desideri dei migranti raccolti a dicembre 2013.

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To Sciabica: Thank you because you help us not forget and give dignity to these people and their stories. This pizzino was written by a spectator during “Sciabica, tales from Lampedusa”, a public lecture that took place at Circolo dei lettori in Turin on 3 December 2013.

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To Sciabica: I’m one of those of Lampedusa and I want to explain my story. From Libya and in Italy. We travelled for 3 days without anything to eat, without anything at all. Eventually, we arrived at Lampedusa. 29-06-2012 This pizzino was written by a spectator during “Sciabica, tales from Lampedusa”, a public lecture that took place at Circolo dei lettori in Turin on 3 December 2013.

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To Sciabica: I know that, even from here in Turin I can here their voices with the wind, the sun, and with bad weather. I don’t want to look at these things anymore. I’m Elena, I’m 42 years old and I don’t want to connive anymore. This pizzino was written by a spectator during “Sciabica, tales from Lampedusa”, a public lecture that took place at Circolo dei lettori in Turin on 3 December 2013.

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To Sciabica: Italy is like a jail, in Italy every right is denied, of Italy you must be ashamed, in Italy only “un-heroes” give us a sign of hope for more human future. This pizzino was written by a spectator during “Sciabica, tales from Lampedusa”, a public lecture that took place at Circolo dei lettori in Turin on 3 December 2013.

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To Sciabica: S.O.S from the Italian coasts: Hey you guys in the sea, on the boats, bring us a bit of humanity, here we have almost run out of it. This pizzino was written by a spectator during “Sciabica, tales from Lampedusa”, a public lecture that took place at Circolo dei lettori in Turin on 3 December 2013.

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Shadow in the waves. This pizzino was written by a spectator during “Sciabica, tales from Lampedusa”, a public lecture that took place at Circolo dei lettori in Turin on 3 December 2013.

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Samuel Pieta. This story was really interesting. I’m one of those migrants. If you want to know my story, you can find me at former IOM. This pizzino was written by a spectator during “Sciabica, tales from Lampedusa”, a public lecture that took place at Circolo dei lettori in Turin on 3 December 2013.

Sciabica’s Pizzini

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To the Minister of Defence: Why are you not investigating a clear case of failure to offer assistance at sea? We are not victims of the sea, but of the failure to offer assistance at sea. 157 living persons await replies for 370 dead. On 3 November it will be a month: it will already a month’s anniversary of the death by water of 370 human beings. Not victims of the sea, but of the failure to offer assistance at sea. According to the testimony of all the survivors of the tragedy of that 3 October, of the boat that capsized with 500 Eritrean migrants on board, when they were already inside Lampedusan waters, 800 metres from the coast, they were approached at 3-3.30 a.m. by two vessels. The survivors recount: we were approached at 3-3.30 by a twin pair of boats, those used by the Italian coastguards. One of them circled round their boat. Despite their shouting and calling for help, the two vessels did not come to their rescue, nor did they signal the presence of the boat. The migrants ask: despite the sophisticated control and defence systems on the island, the numerous authorities present whose job is frontier surveillance, how could they not have seen us? The migrants ask: if it had been a boatload of armed and ill-intentioned individuals – not people fleeing from hunger, war and death – that had set foot on the island, would they have been able to act undisturbed on Italian territory? The migrants ask: why are the Italian magistrates not acting on the case and examining our queries? This story was collected by Habeisha agency (http://habeshia.blogspot.it/), founded by don Mussie Zerai, which acts as a mouthpiece for the accusations of the Eritrean migrants who survived the tragedy of 3 October, 2013, in the sea off Lampedusa.

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01 pizzini_VitoFiorino

To Herman Van Rompuy, Predisent of the European Councial and José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission: Mi name is Vito Fiorino. I’m 64 years old and I’m not a hero. Those of you that don’t live and work on the sea, do you know that you can die with the maestrale blowing? I had gone out to cast my nets. This is the season for tuna. I was far out, MARE PIATTO, with a light wind blowing from the west. It was the scirocco.where the sun sets, at six in the morning,. My mate heard voices calling. That’s the shearwaters calling, flocks of them, I said to him. Those shouts coming up from the water, I thought they were seagulls. Instead they were men. We didn’t have to even look at each other to decide what we had to do. I took a lifebelt and tied it to a rope. We started pulling up one person after another, naked, dirty with diesel, as the sea threw them up. How many of you are there, I asked. They said 500. I could see 50 in the water. I realized we were dealing with an enormous tragedy. How long have you been in the sea, I asked. 4 hours, they said. But I know that in those conditions in the water an hour seems like a day. Lucky for them that the wind had given them the scirocco, which had blown them towards land and not out to sea. Those who are familiar with the sea know that you can die with the maestrale blowing. In the meantime we went on pulling people on board: I didn’t realize how many there were until we started to swing from side to side with the weight. I waited for permits, but none came. So I put the engine into gear and returned to the port. While they were disembarking I counted them: there were 47 of them. 46 men and just one woman. This is my story of what happened. If it’s only now that I am telling it that’s only for the good of the island. Our institutions won’t do anything. People who think that they have nothing to do with all this won’t do anything. They showed that in the past and they have shown it in these last few days as well. But if Nations are really as United as they say they are, they must do something about it now. I did what was right. I would do it again tomorrow, any moment, and even more. The 47 survivors come and see me every day. They come and see me at my daughter’s bar, and they say ‘ciao, papà’. Vito Fiorino is 64. He was born in Bari and brought up in Milan. The first time he came to Lampedusa was on holiday, in 1990. When he returned home he felt like a stranger. He sold his woodwork shop and stopped working in the city where he had lived for almost 50 years. His nostalgia for the island drew him back. He has been a Lampedusan for 13 years now. On 3 October, 2013, he saved 47 people from certain death at sea. Text and photograph: Michela A.G. Iaccarino / Fabrica

04 pizzini_MussieZerai

To the Italian authorities: My name is Mussie Zerai, I’m 38 and I’m not a hero. Stop conferring citizenship to the dead, start giving rights to the living. I was born under the heel of the Ethiopian dictatorship in my country Eritrea, and arrived in Italy in 1992. Not in a boat, but comfortably seated in an aircraft; I left with a regular visa. While power was being concentrated in the hands of a few, and mutual suspicion was growing in the eyes of many, I decided, having been warned by those signs of a war that was growing from the ashes of another one, with fortune on my side and a father in Italy, to try and see what is the destiny of free men. When you are allowed to say what you think, to decide what life you will lead, make your choices without having a gun to your head. I left one Eritrea behind and I found one million and a half, far from Asmara. They crossed the desert on foot, the sea on leaky boats, in the sights of machine guns always ready to shoot. Fugitives escaping from a regime that with one hand keeps them in chains, with the other leads them to the frontier. There are members of the Eritrean government that are involved in the traffic in human beings. Their names have been written, black on white, by the UN, maybe no one has read them. In that corner of the desert that is my country, where we had already celebrated the Liberation in 1991, the battle has never been over. After a history written with 30 years of war and 300 thousand dead who had fought for the Independence, without knowing that they would win it at the price of liberty, the conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia was concluded in 2000. 13 years have passed and 4 million and a half people think that the war is still on. We are under attack, says the regime, Ethiopia is about to invade us, says the voice of the one State television station. Take up your weapons, men and women, from 18 years of age until death, says the dictator, for whom that frontier that no one has ever erected is a shield and an excuse. The UN has written it, black on white, maybe no one has read it. In Eritrea today, if your son has escaped, either you pay or you are thrown into prison. If you do not practise the official religion, either you pay or you are thrown into prison. If you are a dissident, you go to prison. If you are a conscientious objector, you stay in prison. The regime finances and trains Somali shababs in Eritrea. The UN has also written this, black on white, in a dossier, maybe no one has ever read it. Sometimes I receive questions from those from whom I would like a reply. I told the Italian government, stop conferring citizenship on the dead, start giving rights to the living. Stop all this salam halek in front of a bloodthirsty tyrant. There is a UN dossier that speaks of the not-too-limpid relations between Italy and Eritrea. Names have been put down, black on white, maybe no one has read them. I told the European government, if you really want to help them, start from their country of origin. There is a more blind person than he who does not want to see and that is he who has already seen. If the West writes treatises and is also finding ways of getting round them, it would be better to stop publishing these dead letters of yours altogether. Five hundred irregular Africans died while trying to reach Italy, said the regime 7 days after October 3. They didn’t call them sons, they didn’t call them fellow citizens. And when the eyes of the world spoke of an Eritrean massacre at sea, the voices of the supporters and financiers of the power machine decided that a little bit of the truth must appear. So the official voices of Eritrea in Italy, important figures of the State, emerged from their Chinese boxes of the political game and were officially invited by the Italian government to participate in the funeral ceremony at Agrigento. Two plus two always makes four, everywhere in the world. It wasn’t relatives of the dead, but sustainers of the regime from which the migrants had been fleeing, who placed fake flowers on their coffins. On the day of the State funeral there were also some young Eritreans present, born in Italy, Sweden, Germany, their heads bowed before the tragedy. These young people, second-generation Eritreans, a European cell indoctrinated by a dictator from whom others of their same age had been desperately fleeing, recited their part. That day they said they were relatives of the victims, instead of simply the victims’ new and younger executioners. Brought up in the comfort of democratic Northern Europe, then trained every year in Asmara, living the high life in a land that for others is only dust and death, they believe in those who say you are the new kadri, the new hope for our land. Deceiving also authorities and institutions, bilingual or often trilingual, they pretend to be migrants, mingle with those waiting to apply for asylum, enter the reception centres and draw up lists of fugitives, then file them with a photograph, and send everything off to Asmara. Where the families that have remained behind will be threatened with death lists. This time I have written their names, but no one has read them. Don Mussie Zerai is a Catholic priest born in Eritrea in 1975. He has lived in Rome since 1992. He has founded an association called Habeshia and helps fugitives who have managed to reach Europe. He is the only person in Italy to have given names to the collaborators of the regime who have filed refugees seeking asylum in Italy in order to keep a hold over families left behind in Eritrea. He has been attacked on various occasions for his declarations. He has never stopped making them. Text and photograph: Michela A. G. Iaccarino / Fabrica

02 pizzini_CostantinoBaratta

To Enrico Letta, Italian Prime Minister, and Angelino Alfano, Italian Minister of the Interior: My name is Costantino Baratta. I’m 56 and I’m not a hero. Set up humanitarian corridors now. Or are you waiting to have another 300 deaths on your conscience? At 7.20am we set off in Nika. She’s called that because it’s only 5 metres, it is: well, it’s little, it’s ‘nika’. We were going out to start fishing. Out at sea instead of the horizon all we could see was arms waving in the water. People crying for help, shouting desperately. The first person I pulled out I gave him the only towel I had, because he was trembling like a leaf. They said from the other boats: don’t think of the dead, save the living. The living, a question of minutes, and the sea would swallow them up. They were all male, and all naked. With all that diesel on their bodies, they were slippery in our arms. All covered in diesel they were. When Nika was full we began to go back towards the shore. Among the bodies sinking down in the water I saw one that was moving. I pulled it up: it was a girl and she was still alive. We stretched her out on the deck and she was coughing up diesel; she was the first we took to Casualty. I’m worn out, like this island. I remember the first landing 20 years ago, when we would find coins, torn documents and clothes on the beach while we were swimming there. These people that set off on this sea, even if the weather is bad, know that it’s better to die than to go back. They come from places where they have seen everything and everything has been done to them. The only thing that has changed since those first landings is that the military contingents doubled. Then nothing else changed. They haven’t even removed the old boat carcasses from the port. A graveyard in the sea and one on land. Even when we can’t go on any longer, when there is nothing left on this island, we’ll go on helping them all the same. But if you give us another medal I’ll be the first to refuse. I had to tell this story to a Swedish MP, to a Norwegian TV, to German journalists. They couldn’t believe it, they knew nothing about all this. But if they’ve only found out about it now, what are they talking about in the European Parliament? Anyway I wanted to find that girl. I looked for her in the reception centre but nothing. In Casualty – but nothing there, either. Then there was the funeral ceremony at the hangar. I might find her there, I thought. I recognized her by the ring she wore on her finger. She had been wearing it on the day of the shipwreck. She recognized me immediately and flung her arms round my neck, as on that day on the sea. Costantino Baratta was born in Trani in 1957. When he fell in love with his future wife he also fell in love with the island and stayed on in Lampedusa. Since 1976 he has worked as an amateur fisherman. During the 2011 shipwreck he helped Tarak, a Tunisian migrant, to join up with his relatives in Sweden. On 3 October, 2013, he saved 11 people from certain death at sea. Text and photograph: Michela A.G. Iaccarino / Fabrica

03 pizzini_ZeritGebray

To the Italian people: My name is Zerit. I’m 28 and I’m not a hero. I want the Italian people to know story and I want to know why I wasn’t invited to my brother’s funeral. It was the Italians that built my town, Elabaned, in Eritrea, where I was born 28 years ago. Just in case you’ve forgotten, we were your colony. I’m the first migrant in my family and I’m a marine biologist. I used to spend my days talking with fish, sectioning algae, studying the routes of the shoals of fish, analysing microorganisms in the sea. Day after day I would collect secrets from the waves as the wind played on them. But what there was beyond the sea was what I didn’t know yet, and what I didn’t ask. That was the last mystery to be revealed. To do that, there was no alternative. I thought I knew the sea and I would observe it from above, from the land. I had to do it for my country when I did my military service, which starts when you are 18 and ends when you are in the grave. My wages were zero, sometimes less than zero. There was no alternative to that, either. So I started walking. I was lucky because I knew in what direction to go. After 3 days of dust and sun, without stopping, I arrived in the Sudan. My brother Samuel, who was a mechanic, lived there. 25 years spent hoping. $1,600 a head is the price of hope as far as Tripoli, Libya, and my brother and I made it there. Locked up in a house with another 500 Eritreans, surrounded by men with rifles, we waited. Yes, it was terrible. But I put up with it, because there was no other alternative. There was the sea in the town, but I didn’t see it. I remained there for one month without even going out to look for it. All 500 of us left the house together: another $1,600, the cost of a second hope on board a fishing vessel. After hours spent in the sea, two boats appeared out of the night. One of them circled around us at a distance of 20 metres or so. And all 500 of us, in the black darkness of the night, started to smile through our clenched teeth. It was as if the darkness had already ended because we weren’t afraid any longer. We’re safe, we shouted. They’re going to come back and pick us up, I said to Samuel. I’ll be able to watch the sea again from the land, I thought. After more than an hour we realized that no one was going to come and save us. One mile from the coast of Lampedusa we set fire to a blanket to attract attention. It was like lighting a candle in a tomb. A light in the middle of nothing. But there was no other alternative. The blanket caught fire and we got scared. We all rushed to one side and the boat capsized. Those of us who were still alive began to swim. There’s no point crying water in water. After swimming for 3 hours I turned and saw that my brother had fallen behind. He said, Go on, Zerit, get to land, call home. He said, ‘Bye Zerit. And I was on the point of fainting in the sea, I couldn’t swim for the two of us, I thought ‘it would be terrible for my mother to lose two sons in the same night – and I left my brother behind. I called ‘Bye Samuel. I, Zerit, am alive because my brother is dead. My last goodbye I said to him at the camp when they showed me a photograph of a body swollen with water. I who spent my life studying the sea, I’ve explored the seabed and recognized the voices of the seashells – did not recognise my own brother. So he died a second death. The day of the funeral I couldn’t wait for the result of the DNA test that would tell me, Yes, that’s your brother Samuel. Now those people from television are asking me if I’m sad, and if looking at the sea makes me sadder. But it’s you that have got to give me an answer. Tell me why I wasn’t at my brother’s funeral. It was like leaving him in the water a second time. So I abandoned him for a third time. At the refugee camp on the day of the funeral, to which we – brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers – were not invited, it took us a minute to decide and all come together. When we realized that we couldn’t go to Agrigento, that there would be strangers who would be throwing flowers on shiny coffins of expensive wood, while there were still bodies trapped in the rotten wood of the boat, we understood that they were dying for a second time. We also forced the gates behind which they wanted to keep us locked up that day, we prayed 4 times towards the south, between our fingers we held wild flowers that grew around the camp, and when it came to the hour of the tragedy we all went down to the sea. It was the sea that I asked about Samuel. Hoping that it will reveal this last secret, or that at least his soul may return that day. I don’t look at the sea any longer. I’ll go anywhere as long as it’s as far away as possible from this island, and Italy. I don’t want to live in a land where my brother was left to fall asleep exhausted among the waves. Don’t call us migrant victims; we are just survivors. I’m alive because my brother is dead. That’s the truth of it, and you haven’t said it yet out loud. Perhaps the Italians want to know, but even if they don’t, they have to hear it all the same. There are 157 stories like this in the camp. You should get to know them all. Zerit was born in Eritrea 28 years ago. After graduating in marine science he decided to join his brother Samuel in Sudan, with him continue the journey towards Libia, and from Tripoli reach the Italian coast. Samuel died in the sea October, 3rd when he was about one hour away from the coast. Zerit arrived in Lampedusa. Text and photograph: Michela A.G. Iaccarino / Fabrica

10 pizzini_DamianoSferlazzo

My name is Damiano Sferlazzo, I’m 38 and I’m vice-mayor. Lampedusa is in Italy and Italy is in Europe. The solution is in North Africa. There are no landings on Lampedusa: there are only rescues at sea. Not illegal or irregular immigrants – on board the old boats there are just refugees seeking asylum. European international law should create alternatives to the traffickers of human beings. One solution there is: to open up a humanitarian channel in North Africa. Damiano Sferlazzo was born in Lampedusa in 1975. He has been vice-mayor of Lampedusa since 2012.

09 pizzini_PietroPachino

Pietro is a fisherman from Lampedusa and he’s not a hero. The gospel story was a metaphor. You use nets to pull in fish, not men. Pietro Pachino was born in 1949 in Lampedusa. At sea they call him Pachino.

09 pizzini_SalvatorePalmisano

Salvatore is a fisherman from Lampedusa and he’s not a hero. The gospel story was a metaphor. You use nets to pull in fish, not men. Salvatore Palmisano was born in Ancona in 1973. His boats are called Nuovo Avvenire and Spaccaghiaccio. Spaccaghiaccio is also his nickname at sea.

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I’m about to become a free man

I migrated in October 2013. On the sea you die like rats, like under the bombs. Even if it is your sea, we’re the ones who drank it, with our lungs. The first Europe I saw from Africa was Lampedusa. The bad days are over now: no more false welcomes, the running away, the scorn, the hunger. My spirit is full of a boat smashed by the waves, and with my spirits so low I have continued on my journey. I left the island, they let me get away, before they took my fingerprints which would have condemned me to remain for ever in Italy. Fingerprints are like handcuffs. You don’t know it, but you are in a cell. I’m a person who if he bows his back, it is only to pick fruit. For the rest, I am like all of us in my nation: even under the bombs we keep our backs straight. I caught a train from Sicily for Milan. From Milan I kept heading further north. It was Europe I wanted, and now I have it. I arrived with another hundred in Norway. Here the world doesn’t need to wait for tomorrow to have a mixed skin. Here the years to come are no longer a hypothesis for me. I have a right to political asylum here. I am about to become a free man. This photograph was taken and sent by a migrant who arrived at Lampedusa in October, 2013, and who is now in Scandinavia.

Migrants’ wishes for 2014

What do migrants wish for 2014? Freedom, a bike, a warm house and a good job, internet to talk with their families. Get married. These are all very simple wishes, the same wishes that we have as well. They have been collected by Fabrica and are presented in this video. These wishes also decorate a Christmas tree installed in Venice by Fabrica.

They deny me the right to do a good deed

Just talking about it makes me feel bad, really bad.
These things can’t leave you indifferent, and you feel bad about it because you have the possibility of giving them somewhere to sleep, but the institutions won’t allow you to.
I’m a citizen of Lampedusa, my name is Lillo Maggiore, my job is … I’m an administrative assistant at the Luigi Pirandello school in Lampedusa. I have a family, made up of me obviously, my wife and two daughters. And I lived through everything, I could say, in 2011. 2011 which I could say, I repeat, changed me and my family, changed our lives: my life because I realised for the first time the reality of poverty, the lack of freedom, living terrible hardships, because, I repeat, these people were living outside, out in the open, in the cold, and from that moment I decided to do something to help them.
I worked in the morning, in the afternoons, and in the evening, above all at night, I dedicated my time to them. I dedicated myself to them, in what sense? Handing out blankets, bringing them hot drinks, getting them thick jackets, shoes … a bit of everything that could help them.
There’s just one thing that I get mad about, the institutions that abstain from… let me say it, deny me the right to do a good deed. I applied for provisional custody of a child, I applied to the social services of the Lampedusa municipality, about a month ago. But nothing, until today, nothing.
Above all, when the weather is bad, and you see them going along the roads, they haven’t got a coat, sometimes not even a pair of shoes, but just a pair of slippers, or they haven’t got a telephone card to let their parents know that they are all right… and so what are you supposed to do? You imagine yourself in their place, you imagine, at least I’m the kind of person that imagines himself in their place immediately and you try to do something, but I can’t do what I would like to do, that is, I am able to help them a bit, but not as much as would be necessary… and this is frustrating, it makes you suffer, because if you start something you want to carry it through, not leave it half done. But they won’t let you … the children, especially the children who have to stay in the CIE together with the adults, it’s not right: children should stay with children, or in a family, which will act as a … to feel that family warmth: these kids do nothing but sleep outside.. Now what I say is this: if all the Lampedusan community does nothing but ask to receive them, to welcome them in their homes, why are we being denied this right to do this good deed?

This testimony was taken down by Marco Pavan/Fabrica.

It’s hard when they go off

My name is Enzo, I’m a fisherman and I live on Lampedusa. What I do I find natural because… I’ve seen them many times at sea. Before seeing them on land, I see them at sea, I’ve seen what state they arrive in. I help these people and I don’t think twice about it, because we don’t look at the colour of their skin, because for a fisherman anyone at sea that is in trouble has to be helped. A fisherman never leaves anyone at sea – that’s a rule. It was 2011 when things started getting out of control and we began to give a hand. And if I see a family around with children I take them home with me. I don’t leave them on the pavement. That’s how it is. With my wife Grazia, thank God, she more than me, we have begun to attend the parish, because I’m a believer, and if I believe in God and I’m a Christian, it’s only natural to do what we are doing, because charity is the basis of everything. Seeing these people around, it’s not easy to sleep peacefully at home, knowing what is going on outside. But not because you’re frightened, but because you know that there are people in the road, homeless, you know that it’s raining and they are there outside, you know they are hungry and have no food. And so we do what we can do, and we offer what we can. And I must say that they give us much more than what we give them. The humbleness of these people… I don’t know how to say it… they have lost everything… even their dignity as human beings… because they have had to put up with everything. Then they manage to get here and they lock them up… in that concentration camp… because that’s exactly what it is. It’s no good them saying the “Centre…” – what welcome? 280 places, and there are, I don’t know how many, a thousand of them, nine hundred, a thousand two hundred… if you’ve got 280 places, 280 is where you have to stop, you leave them out, because they are out anyway, they get out from behind. When someone embraces you – they call me “papà” you know, and my wife “mamma”; “thank you, papà”, and to my wife “thank you, mamma” – your home fills with the grace of God. Because when you do a good deed you feel good. I don’t know, come on… let’s say by the grace of God, but it’s like that. We’ll definitely go on doing this. We’ve got our problems too, we have our lives, work, we try to separate the two things. But that doesn’t mean we retreat in front of an emergency or the needs of a brother. Always within our possibilities, but we do as much as we can. What makes us sad is when we have tragedies like what happened a month ago: everyone arrives, ministers come, and then in the end, after a week, a week and a half, things go back perhaps to worse than before. Our problems on Lampedusa are increasing and nobody cares, because we do have problems on the island, because living on an island is a problem in itself: transport, hospital, schools, we’ve got nothing. But we don’t complain that much, because seeing the state in which these people arrive, we consider ourselves quite lucky. The immobility of public institutions is the problem. They go on saying “provisions for Lampedusa…”, but nothing ever happens, and what we have to do, seeing what is happening, we do, without getting too worked up about it. Every now and then a little quarrel breaks out – it’s difficult to stop a little anger overflowing, isn’t it? But we are going on doing it, and we’ll go on doing it, certainly because it’s not going to stop here.

Psss! What are you doing? Are you going away? It’s hard, you know, when they go off, but that’s the way it is. That’s the way it is.

The testimony of fisherman Enzo Riso was taken down by Marco Pavan / Fabrica.

From Eritrea to sleeping on the street in the UK

Anthony was born in Eritrea. When he was 10 his father died and his mother, who was sick, decided to send him to stay with an uncle who lived in Sudan, to save him from being called up for military service. “My father was a soldier, that’s how he died, in combat. My mum wanted to save my life, stop me from ending up the same way.”

Anthony worked for three years in his uncle’s bar, often for gruelling long hours and without ever going to school: “My uncle sent his children to school, but not me.”

The treatment he received from his uncle became even more harsh when Anthony’s mother, who had never recovered from her sickness, died. The boy could see his dreams vanishing day by day. He would have liked to study, have the chance of building a future, so, as soon as he was 14, he decided to run away in search of a place where he could study and grow up. “

Anthony came to Europe when he was little more than a child. He crossed it all alone, from the Mediterranean coasts as far as the United Kingdom. There he stopped and presented a request for political asylum and tried to attend a school.

He hadn’t imagined that it would be so hard to study in Great Britain as well: “A teacher told me that as soon as I had obtained the status of refugee I would be able to attend a school”.

Anthony waited for five interminable years. When the reply came he found that his request had been turned down and that he was no longer eligible for any form of assistance. “Four or five of them took me,” the boy remembers, “and threw me out of the house, with all my belongings.”

“I’m leading a precarious sort of life. At times I have a bed to sleep on, other times I sleep in the street; sometimes I find something to eat and other times I don’t, and often there’s nowhere to have a shower.”

The Refugee Action association, who found out about him and have made his story known, are trying to help Anthony find a fixed place to stay and are helping him to re-present his request for political asylum.

Lassad in the Cie of Ponte Galeria: “In a lager with 41 euros a day”

It was December when in the Rome Ponte Galeria CIE protest suddenly turned to silence. A silence of black and green threads being pulled out of the issued blankets and thrust into flesh. A mute cry stopping any attempt to turn words into chat, forcing you at least to look, to ask yourself why.

In the CIE that day there was also Lassad, a Tunisian citizen who has lived in Italy for 22 years, who refused to turn his eyes away and who has tried to respond and tell what happened. Lassad’s life hasn’t been simple. He had been detained before Ponte Galeria, but if they had told him then that there was a place like this in Italy he wouldn’t have believed them. Lassad has decided to fight to have the Ponte Galeria CIE monitored, and was present on 28 March at the Lazio regional council offices to support a specific motion.

«I’ve been living in Italy for 22 years. Most of my life I’ve lived here. Lots of things have happened to me and I’ve done many things wrong, but I paid for everything. One day I was going back home with the shopping when I was stopped by the police: they asked me for my papers and then took me straight to Ponte Galeria, to that place you call a CIE. I woke up in the morning, it was cold, it was December and I found myself with thirteen men who had their lips sewn up in protest. Something like that leaves a mark, you don’t shake it off very easily. You realise that you are in a kind of concentration camp, a camp that exists because every life has a price. What do they give those who are inside? I think it’s 41 euros. Our lives are worth 41 euros. What is 41 euros, is it its value on the Stock Exchange, the size of a pair of shoes, calculated according to our weight, the space we occupy? I don’t know. Tell me why I can’t find the words to understand it. A price for our suffering. You’ve been inside, you saw first hand the product that is given a price. As for me, nothing surprises me, I feel as though I’m living in the Forties after hearing what they tell me and after what I’ve read. I can feel an icy wind from the right blowing strong and from all directions”.

“I don’t know what to say. The world is beautiful outside, as long as you don’t trample over the rights of the people next to you. I feel like a kind of fish out of water. I haven’t got a country any longer, I’m neither here nor there, where is my home in your opinion? And how can I forget those scenes, those screams… I was open-mouthed. These things I knew happened 70 years ago. And I think of History. It’s supposed to go down in books and be remembered, you have to give a knock and show the world you are there. Today I was at the Underground station of Rebibbia, near the prison, there were fine posters of people going over a wall and the words “All free”. Sure, I agree. And yet I hear so much rubbish being said, I hear people say that slavery has been abolished: I think great people like Abraham Lincoln would turn in their graves. How many centuries more do we have to wait before we don’t have to put a price on a human life? God creates a person and that person is bought and sold, is quoted on the market. Who could have imagined that we would end up like this?”

“It’s my lucky day today. I’m sitting in the chair of the President of the Region, I’ve met a lot of good people, what you are doing gives a sense to my life and yours. Otherwise we are all useless, we end up in a mean, miserable world. It’s thanks to people like you that I manage to sleep at night. You people are replacing Fanon. Do you know what he used to say? He said that in the world there are those who are for and those who are against, and the main cause is called racism. Maybe these are not fascist times yet but we have to be careful. We have to realise that diversity is a resource and we must be able to take advantage of it and listen, not brand it. Distrust is the mother of all the mistakes in the world. Sorry if I’m saying everything all confused, but this way I can say everything that I have inside me. I have escaped so many times in order to live, Ponte Galeria, Trapani, Regina Coeli and then Trapani again, I walked along a railway track for 80 miles in order to get as far away as possible from here. Then they caught me in Rome and that’s when I went off my head”.

“The time would never pass and I had to keep my head busy and so I began to count. The cage we were in had 206 bars, if you walked round the cage the lights made you go crazy, at night you couldn’t make out any colours, everything looked grey. And I went on counting: the length of the cage is 18 steps and a half, the corridor is 128 steps. Isn’t that enough for you? At night I hoped that they would turn off the lights so that I could see the stars, I can read them, I tried to make out The Great Bear and Orsa Minor instead of looking at the surveillance cameras that were everywhere. They tell me that a CIE is not a prison and they called us guests. But I was just a bloody number that they used to call me with every day. Is that what guests are? Why didn’t they just tattoo the number on me instead of talking about values that exist only on paper and that have nothing to do with us. I couldn’t believe it – there I was calmly walking along the street and I find myself in an open-air madhouse”.

“I also owe a lot to journalists, and some of them are here present. I heard that in 2011 the Minister of the Interior had issued a circular to stop you from entering: how come? Didn’t they want you to see what I had lived through? What all the others have lived through? Usually if a civil servant makes such a big mistake you go and check if he has made any other mistakes. Did that happen with this Minister? I don’t think so, because otherwise you could have adjusted the laws, changed them, filled them with values. But we are only objects, goods for business, and in between there is the economy which in my opinion is corrupt. It seems as if in Italy too many people are happy just to leave things as they are, but we are still in time to stop things getting worse, we can prevent further tragedies. Find a solution, you find it, let’s find it together, it’s not my fault that I am a Tunisian and that I was born on the wrong side of the Mediterranean.

It’s obvious that CIEs, these detention centres, don’t work, the doctor who spoke before me was right (Alberto Barbieri, of Medu ed.), he spoke of injustice and waste of money, of an institution that is useless. If others don’t understand that or don’t accept it, that’s not right. We’ll just go on producing more suffering for everybody, for those who are inside, for the relatives of those who are inside – many have wives and children in Italy – for all those who are afraid of being caught and locked up without having done anything wrong.”

“Life for people like me is a continuous Russian roulette that we can’t escape from. Let us lead a normal life, work, let us give you a hand to make this country grow. One day you’ll thank us. But today, let me say this as a last thing: you’ve given me hope. If you keep the Centre continually monitored you’ll be able to help lots of people inside Ponte Galeria and you’ll discover many things that are not right. You’ll discover for example, and it might seem unimportant but inside there is no psychiatrist, while people are going crazy. There’s one in a prison, at times also in army barracks, but why isn’t there one in a place where so many people are so distressed?”

Today Lassad has left the Ponte Galeria CIE thanks to a suspension and he hopes to go back to being a free man. His precious testimony in favour of the motion presented by the regional councillor Marta Bonafoni has been published by the Corriere delle migrazioni.

Ahmed: “From Somalia to Malta, a 16-month long nightmare”

Ahmed, 31 years of age, decided to leave his country, Somalia, because of the violent clashes caused by the Al Shabab militia in the region of Medina. On leaving, Ahmed was just searching for a safe place to live in; he could never have imagined that he was about to go on a journey of 5,000 kilometres and lasting 16 months, nor that he would be risking his life crossing the desert and the sea.

“There were many reasons why I left my country, the ethnic violence, because it wasn’t safe. The nearest place was Kenya, so there I went.

I lived in Nairobi for two months, but without any papers I couldn’t do anything to survive and I was worried that the Kenyan police would arrest me. So I decided to move down towards the border with Uganda and from there towards Kampala, where I stayed for a month, but life was very hard there too and I didn’t know anyone who could help me. One day someone told me to head for Libya because it was easy to get across to Europe from there and I thought it was a good idea.”

It’s already three months since Ahmed left. Getting to Libya from Kampala means having to get to South Sudan and cross it, enter Sudan by going up the Nile on a boat and going on as far as Khartoum. Then, finding a way of crossing the Sahara, which almost always means getting involved with human traffickers. The journey from Khartoum cost 360 dollars. When for Ahmed is time to leave, the group was made up of 80 people, all piled up in 12 big jeeps. The journey in the desert lasted three days and three nights, but didn’t lead to Libya. It stopped in the middle of the desert where a rich-looking man bought the whole group and fixed a new price for their freedom: pay 800 dollars, or be left to die in the Sahara, one day at a time, of heat and thirst.

“I fell ill – says Ahmed – I could feel myself close to death. There were about 200 of us at the beginning, five of us died right there. Thank God a fellow national gave me 200 dollars to make up the sum I needed. We left from there and headed towards Libya but just before reaching Kufra we ran into a group of Libya soldiers who arrested the traffickers in charge of us and left us there in the desert with no water, no food and no shade. They came to pick us up 24 hours later, loaded us up on a truck and took us to Kufra, into prison. There I remained for 4 months, and they beat us up every other day.”

Taking advantage of a moment when the guards weren’t looking, Ahmed and three other detainees managed to escape and hid in the ‘African’ part of the town. Here he found help and managed to contact his family and get them to send him 500 dollars, in order to reach Bengazi and then Tripoli.

“The first time the police stopped me at Tripoli to check my papers I made the mistake of answering in English instead of Arabic. They beat me with their truncheons and their gun-butts, took my money and told me to get the hell out of it. The second time I was thrown into a cell, where I stayed for two months; two months after my release I decided to get a boat for Europe, Libya was just hell, I didn’t want to live there. The others paid the sea traffickers with 400 and 500 dollars for the crossing, but I didn’t have any money. So I made up the story that I knew how to navigate, that I knew how to use a nautical compass and they believed me. Actually I knew no such thing, but I had read something about the GPS system on the Internet.”

The boat that left Tripoli, destination Malta, carried 55 people. Ahmed was handed a satellite navigator and given the direction to follow, but the weather conditions were bad. Soon the boat began to fill up with water and the crew were panic-stricken. They fought against the bad weather for 10 hours, drifting helplessly with the wind, trying to bale out the water as best as they could, hoping for a ship that would rescue them.

“The sea had taken us to within a few miles of Tripoli, towards the coast of Tunisia. The Tunisian patrol that intercepted our boat wanted to know if we were heading for Italy, then they beat us and took us to a detention centre where we remained for three weeks. There were also pregnant women in our group. Some of the guards were sorry for them so they let us go but they told us that if they saw us out at sea they would kill us. I returned to Tripoli and after a month I found another trafficker who had a boat, an inflatable dinghy actually, and we had just biscuits and a little water, which finished after two days at sea. The last day I drank seawater because I was so thirsty, but luckily after 3 days and 3 nights we arrived at Malta, safe at last.”

Today Ahmed lives in Malta, where he has been granted refugee status and where he has a part-time job as an interpreter and translator. His dream, he told them at UNHCR, is to emigrate to the United States and re-start a new life there.

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