Action for Equality, Support, Antiracism calls attention again on the case that was published two weeks ago and concerns the inhuman treatment and illegal detention of a mother and a 13 months old baby from Afghanistan. The father is held in the Detention Center in Mennogeia since December 2012, while the mother and her three children were accommodated until two weeks ago in the Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers in Kofinou. After the mother’s arrest on November 18, the two older children were taken to the Children’s Shelter in Larnaca. The baby, who is still at the stage of lactation, initially was given to a foster family, but on November 23 was transferred to the Detention Center of Oroklini Police Station, where the mother is held until now. According to the competent authorities, “the baby was transferred to the detention center because it was crying continuously”, after the violent separation from its mother.-
Earlier today I posted about the baby taken away from her mother who, it is claimed, suffers from bipolar disorder. The baby’s father is an undocumented immigrant from Senegal so, the British court ruled the parents were unfit to care for the child.
Now comes this story, also involving the European Union’s treatment of immigrant families. In Cyprus, a lactating baby was given away in foster care while both parents were held in detention due to their status as undocumented migrants. The foster family has now “returned” the baby who has also been placed in detention for “crying too much”.
Yesterday I posted about the Italian woman who was forced into a C Section because, according to British Child Services, she had suffered a mental breakdown. In my post, I said that I had heard similar stories about migrant women (not the forcible birth but the involvement of Child Services because their motherhood skills are questioned more often than their White counterparts). I had no data about the Italian woman in question so I did not feel comfortable speculating about her ethnicity. However, for the past 24 hours I have been monitoring a number of Italian news sites in the hopes that more info about the woman becomes available. English speaking media is behind its Italian counterpart in updating the development of this story. A moment ago I finally found what I had suspected. Via Repubblica (translation from Italian mine):
“I want my daughter back, I am suffering like an animal. I was forced into a C-Section without my consent. The day of the forced delivery I thought they were moving me from one room to another while I kept saying I wanted to return to Italy. Then I was sedated and when I woke up, she was gone. She was taken away from me.
Speaking like a wounded mother, Alessandra Panchieri, 35 years old, from Chainciano. She is the woman who suffers from bipolar disorder whose daughter was taken away in Essex, England. […]
The baby’s father, who is from Senegal, and an American relative of mine, Indra Armstrong, were both available to take care of the child but the British social services have ignored this. Why? Why did nobody help me?”
And there you have it. The baby’s father, who was willing and available to take care of the child, is from Senegal.
Her mother is A. She is an Italian national. Her father is B who is a Senegalese national, he is currently living in Italy. His situation is unclear, as I understand it he travelled there under a student visa, at least on one version, and is an over-stayer. He certainly has no status in Italy and he is unable, as I understand it, as a result of his status, either to leave Italy at all , and is certainly not able to come to the United Kingdom.
This is what happens to children of color born from an undocumented parent. Given away like the spoils of the Empire, to decide their fate and future.
Over half of the estimated 120,000 undocumented migrant children in the UK were born here. Many have lived here for their entire childhood," Kamena Dorling, policy and programmes manager at the centre said.-
Undocumented European immigration in numbers.
I’ve written about the language of European immigration before and how there is an institutional push to classify undocumented immigrants as either refugees or asylum seekers, erasing the multiplicity of experiences that lead to migration and displacement. Another erasure that is quite common across the EU has to do with figures. There is no data collection as to the number of undocumented migrants currently living within the European Union. I suspect that this lack of data, paired with the above mentioned language misuse is a purely political decision. In order to perpetuate the myth of “European human rights champion”, the EU needs to obscure the realities of those that are disenfranchised within its own borders.
The hundreds who lost their lives off Lampedusa yesterday are Italian citizens as of today," Prime Minister Enrico Letta said on Friday - an official day of mourning for the victims.-
The undocumented migrants who died in Lampedusa have been granted Italian citizenship. A noble gesture, one would say. However, the survivors, face this (from the link):
But for the survivors, crammed in a refugee centre hosting four times more people than its normal capacity, the situation remains dire. Under a law passed by the previous centre-right government, “clandestine immigrants” are considered illegal and have to pay fines of up to €5,000.
The death toll from a stricken boat off the coast of Italy carrying 500 African migrants has risen to 194 as rescue operations continue, officials have said. By nightfall on Sunday, 83 bodies had been retrieved, including that of one child. At least 150 more are believed to still be missing as many are likely trapped in the wreckage 47 metres below the surface.-
An update on the death toll of migrants in Lampedusa, Italy. (Content warning at the link for photos).
Previous posts on this still developing catastrophe here and here about a fisherman prevented from rescuing people.
From the link at Al Jazeera:
Nearly all of the 155 survivors of Thursday’s shipwreck - the vast majority of them men - remain at the island’s refugee centre.
My post about the lack of a feminist analysis in response to the plight of undocumented migrants in view of Lampedusa’s mass death toll.
A fisherman who rescued 47 people after a migrant boat sank off the coast of Lampedusa, Italy, says coastguards stopped him saving more people. He claims rescue workers refused to take people from his full boat so he rescue more, because it was against their protocol. More than 300 people are thought to have died in the disaster-
See previous posts about the ongoing tragedy in Lapedusa, Italy:
And here a post about the “corporate practices” (i.e. protocols) that rule the administration of migrant lives in Europe. These “protocols” place corporate “efficiency” above human life.
I try to see the world through a series of causes and effects. What happens here is usually tied to something that happened there. These causes and effects, for me, take place simultaneously across a spatial and historical continuum. For me, a racist incident today is tied to five or six centuries of racist hierarchies, colonial interventions, the history of philosophies and Empires, geopolitical relationships, etc. An Irish or British racist throwing a hatchet through a Nigerian woman’s window does not exist in isolation. His hatchet is a continuation of the policies that enslaved this woman’s ancestors, the ideologies that placed this woman as “Other”, the neglect of the consequences of said policies and colonial interventions, the objectification of the bodies of Women of Color and, more specifically, Black women. For me, the racist’s hatchet is not merely a hatchet: it is an instrument that, in a brief moment now, brings together six hundred years of history.
So, when I scream until I am blue in the face that the European catastrophe that is the ongoing death of undocumented migrants is a feminist issue, many are either confounded or dismissive. Few disagree that it is a humanitarian catastrophe but they stop short of acknowledging why it’d be a problem for feminism. Feminism, they argue, is about women’s equality and migrant women are no different than migrant men in terms of disprivilege, so why would this be a feminist issue per se? Because even while dying at sea, in the most precarious conditions, left at the mercy of geography and weather conditions, women are disproportionately affected in ways that are very specific to their gender. From the latest news about the mass deaths of migrants in Lampedusa, Italy:
Simona Moscarelli, a spokeswoman from the International Organization for Migration in Rome, told the BBC that in order to escape the fire, “the migrants moved, all of them, to one side of the boat which capsized”.
She estimated that only six of about 100 women on board survived, adding that most of the migrants were unable to swim.
"Only the strongest survived," she said.
Those few who do survive are now at risk of rape and sexual abuse that they won’t be able to report (see here and here), they will not have access to reproductive healthcare, they will be placed in detention camps where they will be at risk of physical and psychological violence and their children (if they did survive) will face unspeakable violence at the hands of the State. And yet, this is not a feminist issue?
"There is no miraculous solution to the migrant exodus issue," said Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino. "If there were we would have found it and put it into action."
That is quite true. There is no miraculous solution. The only solution I can think of would involve a radical re-thinking of white supremacist, heteronormative, capitalist patriarchy and the administration and flow of resources from the countries these people are leaving behind. The solution (if we can call it such), would entail a deep examination of the historical processes that brought us to today and who has benefited and continues to benefit from this inequality. But that, apparently, is not a feminist issue. Instead, we should “Lean In” towards the corporations and State interventions that make this situation possible. “Break the glass ceiling, sister! those who bleed from the shards are not a feminist problem, after all”.
At least 94 people have died after a boat carrying hundreds of migrants sank off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa, with rescuers warning that the number could rise significantly as searches continue for around 250 people missing.-
I have no words because all I have is this seething rage eating me inside. How many more “ungrievable lives” need to be lost before the European Union addresses this catastrophe of their own doing?
Last week, Danish-Iranian artist Firoozeh Bazrafkan was convicted in a Danish court for racism. In her blog, she wrote that she was “convinced that Muslim men around the world rape, abuse and kill their daughters”. She was convicted by the Eastern High Court for violating section 266b of the Danish criminal code, which specifies racism as a crime, and she was fined 5,000 kroner (roughly 670 Euros). From The Copenhagen Post:
According to the law, it is illegal to “spread messages that threaten, taunt or degrade a group because of their race, skin colour, national or ethnic extraction, belief or sexual orientation”.
The court argued that Bazrafkan in her blog had generalized about Muslims men being criminals, and that because her statement “derided and degraded a group simply based on their faith”, she was guilty.
Of course I find her statements gross and untrue. I don’t think I need to clarify that. My disgust of her statements, though, doesn’t mean I can overlook the obvious: she is Iranian and living in Denmark. As much as I find her statements odious, she is making observations about her own culture. These observations about one’s own culture or heritage precludes racism as one cannot be racist against one’s own. Prejudiced or ethnocentric, yes, but not racist. Racism requires a power deferential that is just not present in this case. This Iranian Danish woman simply doesn’t have the institutionalized backing to turn her prejudice into systemic discrimination or legal frameworks to exclude people based on them being Muslim.
From an interview with Firoozeh Bazrafkan also at The Copenhagen Post:
I have also been critical of Judaism and Christianity but I was born in Iran as a Muslim. I have family members in Iran who don’t have the same democratic rights and freedom to express their anger as I do. I do my best to get the point out in my artwork and installations because I want to criticise the Iranian regime my way. If I want to be angry, I should have the right to be angry and call the Islamic regime anything I want. The state shouldn’t go in and take my rights.
Her opinions might be repulsive, one might even argue that they incite hate speech but this misuse of anti racism laws has one very concrete and grave consequence: it opens the door for convictions based on “anti white racism” as well. If a person of color makes a generalization about white people, theoretically speaking, they can now be measured by the standard set by this court ruling. European anti racism laws were enacted post World War II to protect minorities from White Supremacy. Convicting an Iranian woman making misguided and prejudiced observations about a culture that is hers are contrary to the spirit of this laws. This is a White Supremacist interpretation of racism as it dilutes and erases institutional and political power from the equation. In this flawed interpretation of the law, we all stand on equal grounds: white people, people of color, ethnic minorities, immigrants, etc… all equally represented and equally liable for the systematic oppression that might afflict us. Needless to say, this is a sure way to exonerate White Supremacy from any responsibility in “the state of things”. An Iranian woman criticizing her culture, however misguided, has the same weight than a right wing politician trying to pass a law to limit the rights of Muslims. When every prejudiced action is viewed equally under the law, we lose a fundamental tool to level the playing field, the one little piece of legislation that offers some degree of leverage against centuries of racist history.
Earlier this month the EU’s border agency FRONTEX was accused by migrant support groups on the Greek island of Mytilene of expelling migrant families from rooms that they were occupying, in order to set up their own offices at the PIPKA “open” migrant centre. FRONTEX subsequently disputed these claims, saying that the events described never took place. Now groups on the island have issued a statement disputing FRONTEX’s statements and describing in detail their version of events.-
Statewatch has an update on the Mytilene (Greece) migrant center incident with Frontex that I covered on my post yesterday. From the article:
"The incident happened Friday [6 September]…Two Frontex officers [thought to be Swedish and Italian] entered the building and went up to the first floor where the two [Syrian] families were hosted. (The main building has two extra rooms, where the most vulnerable refugees are hosted due to better housing conditions i.e. extra bathrooms). They told the families to move out of their rooms and go out, since they wanted to open their offices there. They had to move to the wooden houses that have no extra bathrooms, they are more exposed to the weather and they are shared by more persons. At night to go to the toilets you have to walk in the dark. The refugees were afraid and followed the "orders" of the Frontex officers."
A hatchet has been thrown through the window of a Nigerian family’s home in central Belfast in a suspected racist attack. The attack on a woman and her two children happened in the loyalist Sandy Row area close to the city centre at around 2am on Wednesday morning.-
From the article:
It is the second such assault in the city in just over a month after a house where two Nigerian men lived in east Belfast came under attack.
In the latest incident Adenike Yisa was on the sofa in the living room at the front of her home when a hatchet was smashed through it.[…]
Almost all such attacks in Belfast occur in loyalist working-class districts. They are usually the work of “freelance” racists who live there and object to the presence of foreigners, rather than any co-ordinated campaign by neo-Nazi groups.
At the link, photos of the racist graffiti left in the Nigerian men’s home.