Christ died of cold (1)


The 65 landings on Lampedusa and the structural inadequacy of the hotspot system

On Friday 25 and Saturday 26 July, 65 and 53 landings were recorded on Lampedusa respectively, bringing the number of people inside the hotspot to over 4500.

Since midday on Thursday 24, the Favaloro pier has been constantly full of newly-arrived people forced to wait to be taken to the Contrada Imbriacola facility after passing USMAF (office of maritime, air and border health) health screening and CRI (Italian Red Cross) registration. Although these are scenes that have been repeated for some time now in the island's daily routine, the arrivals of the last few days have further jammed up the logistical operation that the Red Cross has been relying on since last June: the buses available are not enough to transport people from the pier to the hotspot and, at the same time, guarantee the transfers from the hotspot to the ships. If you add to this that there is only one small road to access the hotspot for buses, trucks and forklifts, you can imagine, with more clarity, a blocked mechanism.

And so, people wait at the pier for hours, without a precise explanation of what they are waiting for, without water or food; not even gazebos have been erected to protect people from the scorching sun, as if it were summer for the first time, or even worse, as if these arrivals were a form of exceptionality. Following the same logic, i.e. that everything is an exception, the presence of medical personnel remains worryingly limited in view of the interventions and operations required; although the medical staff in the Lampedusa polyclinic has been reinvigorated in recent months, structural problems and limitations remain, such as the limited number of staff for the landings and the few means available, such as ambulances, wheelchairs or stretchers.

Autonomous arrival in Lampedusa on 24 August 2023

Favaloro Pier, morning of 25 August 2023

Favaloro Pier, morning of 25 August 2023

Favaloro Pier, morning of 25 August 2023

Favaloro Pier, afternoon of 25 August 2023

Favaloro Pier, afternoon of 25 August 2023

For the umpteenth time in the space of a few months, Lampedusa is measuring the inadequacy of the emergency mechanism and the role of the Prefectures, which are in a state of fatigue compared to the real situation. For at least thirty years, Italy has had to face a change in migratory flows, going from being mainly a country of emigration to becoming in fact a destination of arrival or at least a stopover. The last fifteen years have seen an increase in arrivals by sea, which can no longer be considered exceptional or a critical emergency.

Lampedusa has for years become a symbol of border violence and of the critical quality of Europe's border management.

Every summer, as arrivals increase, the island packed with tourists cyclically finds itself in the spotlight, amid cries of emergency and instant catwalks of celebrity-seeking politicians.

In the face of this incredible tenacity, on the part of successive governments in Italy, to exclude any attempt at structural and long-term management of reception and relief, we wonder how it is possible to really think that the Favaloro pier (and in general all the island's piers) can be the central cog in responding to what is happening? Can a defacto closed hotspot with less than 400 official places be the pivot of the institutional device to deal with contemporary dynamics?

Although arrivals are part of the broader discourse of migration, identifying the peculiarities of the moment is a fundamental operation in order not to contribute to the construction of such moments as crises.

Instead, the presence of the police on the island and their function in 'managing migrants' seems to belong to an opposite logic. More and more personnel are employed during landings, in the hotspot and on the ships for transfers to the hinterland. As previously emphasised on our website, the way in which the police interface with newly-arrived people remains worrying and problematic: almost always without the possibility of using a language other than Italian, the rigid and mainly control-oriented approach is conducive to forms of violence that betray structural racism.

Scenes of imposition (such as waiting for the bus for hours, standing in line), shouting and mistreatment, with racist comments, are increasingly frequent.

In a context with 4500 people enclosed in a limited space like the Lampedusa hotspot (where no external monitoring is possible) one wonders with concern, what kind of interventions are made by the police and how they intervene in moments of tension. Direct testimonies of people who have just arrived and been received in the hotspot report officers in riot gear; scenes that are unfortunately not surprising and recall the scenes in Porto Empedocle a few weeks ago.

Making Lampedusa the obligatory hub for landings and pre-identifications follows political reasons rather than practical-organisational needs; at times like these the blindness and seriousness of this management is there for all to see. Lampedusa and its hotspot represent a point of convergence on which a delicate agreement between the various European states rests, and it is the surprising silence of the latter that betrays its delicacy.

Galaxy ship used for transfers on Saturday 26 August. Cala Pisana

Pantelleria (Military Ship) used for the transfer of 300 people on 26.08

If the characteristic of the hotspot in Lampedusa is that it is a closed centre regardless of the number of people inside and their psycho-physical conditions, the priority is to transfer as many people as possible elsewhere in a short time. The speeding up of this process, on the one hand clamoured for, on the other, has meant that it has been impossible to thoroughly assess people's individual conditions, leading, for example, to serious separations of families and failed reunifications, and more generally to a further precariousness of the conditions of the reception system.

There are dozens of reports of people being housed in reception centres in remote areas, far from centres and villages. Often without staff able to speak languages that everyone understands, and without adequate legal information.

As one Cameroonian boy tells us on the phone:

"We have been here for seven days and no one has explained anything to us, how the kindergarten works for example....I would like to train in Italy but the only staff here are the cleaners who do not speak French"

As is almost a rule, after days in the reception centres, no one has spoken to a lawyer or a legal assistant.

"We are all of age but they treat us like children"

Rather than supporting the emancipation and personal projects of newly-arrived people, the gears of the institutional device that begin in Lampedusa maintain the goal of control and filtering.

In this direction, criminalisation plays - as it always has - a central role. In the last week, according to various journalistic sources, between Salerno and Ragusa, 5 people have been arrested on charges of 'scafismo' (maritime smuggling) and 10 on charges of repeated illegal entry into Italian territory. Numerous are the reports of people being blocked in hotspots in Lampedusa for weeks waiting, probably, for a transfer to a CPR (now almost all with no available places). The opening of the new centre for accelerated border procedures under Decree No. 20 (Cutro Decree) and of new hotspots in the Sicilian hinterland fits into the same repressive logic.

Although it is part of the large and now decade-long migration phenomenon, the more than 100,000 arrivals since the beginning of 2023 bring out complex and peculiar aspects. Reading and accepting them is fundamental to understanding the inadequacy of the institutional arrangements at work. What is happening is neither a deviation nor an exception, but the end product in which the financing of the externalisation of European borders in which Frontex plays a central role also plays a part.

In August, several associations denounced the violence of border control practices in Ventimiglia, and at the beginning of the same month, at Claviere, the body of a boy was found in the paths crossing the French-Italian border. In the same days, at the beginning of August, 6 bodies were recovered in the Channel, following a shipwreck in an attempt to cross the border between France and England.

It is not a question of security nor of transfers between hotspots, hubs and other facilities but a question of freedom of movement for all and everyone, and what happens on the other borders confirms this; not recognising this implies state violence, structural racism and death.

Freedom of movement for all!

1) The title, while meant to be ironic, is inspired by a recent and real anecdote. Chatting with some people from Maldusa on the rocks in front of the Favaloro pier on 25 August, a tourist mentions the fact that Donzelli (FdI) declared that the naval blockade with Tunisia was working. In a Romagnolo accent, he added: 'okay, we're ass****s, but don't tell us that Christ died of cold!