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.
Migrants Rights Network (MRN), The Forum and UNHCR are excited to open the call for nominations for the Women on the Move Awards 2014. The awards – formerly the Migrant and Refugee Woman of the Year awards – will be announced on International Women’s Day, 8 March 2014. The Women on the Move Awards celebrates and supports the contribution that migrant and refugee women, the media and their champions can make towards facing down prejudice and inspiring others. This year there are four categories of awards. The Woman of the Year and Young Woman of the Year awards celebrate women who, having migrated or fled persecution, provide essential support and inspiring leadership at the grassroots to others starting a new life in the UK. The Media Award recognises the outstanding work of a journalist or producer whose reporting has promoted the protection needs of refugee, asylum-seeking or migrant women, either in the UK or abroad. This year, the awards will also recognise a Champion of the Year: an individual, group of people, or organisation, selected by a panel, which has made a significant contribution to supporting migrant and refugee women.-
Nominations are open until November 30th.
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?
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."
When I wrote about “the asylum seeker industrial complex” a few weeks ago I referred to both the EU’s need of the figure of the “asylum seeker” for the perpetuation of the universal human rights myth and the corporations that profit from the administration of these lives. I also objected to the category of “asylum seeker” as the only migrant experience that is coded both in the law and media, erasing the multitude of political and economic reasons behind human displacement in the Global South. Today, I came across a blood chilling post at the EU Observer, Private firms put price tag on migrant suicides. From the piece:
Private security companies operating UK-based immigrant removal centres (IRC)* use formulas to calculate the profit loss incurred by detainees who commit suicide under their watch.
A handful of immigrants, set for deportation, have managed to kill themselves at the facilities over the years. The UK Border Agency, has in some other cases, refused to disclose the cause of death.[…]
The profit formula is based on a performance point system that attributes numerical figures to a list of possible infractions based on a self-auditing process.[…]
If a Serco guard forgets to lock a door at Colnbrook, then the company is fined 50 points. If a detainee is caught climbing onto the roof, it is fined 10 points.
Fifty points are given if a guard fails to report an incident of torture to the manager.
An incident resulting in self-harm is 20 points.
Suicide is 300 points.
The sum is then entered into a formula to determine how much they get paid, although the monetary value of the points is redacted in the contract.
Every instance of a detainee’s harm is a loss of profit for the corporations in charge of the administration of these detention camps. Needless to say, this point system results in the underreporting of violence and dismissal of migrant’s mental health issues.
However, these corporate practices are not limited to privately owned entities that benefit from outsourcing contracts for immigrant detention. This video, posted six days ago by Frontex, the European agency in charge of border control, contains the right mix of militarization and corporate speak that muddles the distinction between the State and privately owned businesses. In the video, European Union officials speak in acronyms about the SQF (Sectoral Qualification Framework) which allows border patrols to be trained across the EU using harmonized education standards. They refer to legal concerns as providing a training that is “Fundamental Rights Compliant” (really, in EU Inc speak, border patrols in charge of rescuing migrants from distressing situations in the middle of the sea should not have empathy or uphold human life, they should be “fundamental rights compliant”). These Frontex officers are then deployed across the European Union where their “compliance” illustrated by this press release from the Greek group “Network Welcome to Europe”, results in actions such as these:
On the 6th of September 2013 two FRONTEX-officers from Italy and Sweden expulsed a family with small children and a pregnant woman from the rooms they were hosted in order to occupy and re-use these rooms as their offices [ED Note: the rooms were located in an NGO building] introducing themselves as European Border Police.
Meanwhile, in the past 16 years, the death count of undocumented migrants due to border militarization, asylum laws, accommodation, detention policy and deportations is currently over 17,000. There is a lot of money to be made by the living and dying in the EU. The “asylum seeker industrial complex” just needs to streamline their profits.
* “Removal centers” are an euphemism for the detention centers where undocumented migrants awaiting deportation can be held for months (or even years).
Not just anyone is sent to Tilburg. Instead, it has become the preferred destination for Belgian’s foreign national prisoners, who comprise over 40% of the prison population. This trend began almost as soon as the contract was signed, with the former Minister of Justice, Stefaan De Clerck, announcing in the Senate, on 30 November 2010, that the Walloon (French speaking) region of Belgium was almost exclusively transferring to Tilburg foreign-national prisoners with irregular immigration status. No reason was given and no further questions were raised apart from those related to the financial implications of the transfers. These days, irregular migrants make up the majority of the prison population in Tilburg, a circumstance that raises a number of questions about which we only have a few answers.-
Anyone interested in the European Union and what it means, in practical terms, for migrants (both documented and undocumented), should probably read this piece.
Because of the cross border flow created by the EU, Belgium and The Netherlands have signed a cooperation agreement that allows Belgium to send undocumented migrants that have been sentenced to prison for a crime to serve their time across the Dutch border. This results in a number of disprivileges for the foreign prisoners in relation to those who are allowed to remain in Belgium. From the piece:
According to the Belgian prison Act of 2005 a prison sentence aims at “the rehabilitation of the offender and the preparation of his reintegration into society”. Officially, immigration status does not preclude access to reintegration and rehabilitation activities in Belgium. In practice, however, irregular migrants are often unable to participate due to language barriers and waiting lists (Hellemans, Aertsen & Goethals 2008; Snacken & Tournel 2009). Such matters are compounded in Tilburg where foreign prisoners are excluded from Dutch language courses and skills training. They also earn less money through prison labour, than they would in a Belgian prison, and, due to distance, have greater difficulties in maintaining contact with friends and family members.
There is another fact not mentioned in the piece: if the undocumented prisoner has family or friends without legal residence, they will also be reluctant to travel across the Dutch border to visit, even if, hypothetically, they have the financial means to do so. While border controls have been eliminated in the EU, train conductors and bus drivers often act like de facto security agents. If they so much as suspect anyone from being undocumented, they will notify the police immediately and cooperate with arrests. If someone mistakenly buys the wrong train or bus ticket, conductors and drivers often ask to see IDs and refusal to comply (or not having one) results in police presence. In 2011, I posted about the Dutch bus drivers who notified the police about "African women who look like illegal immigrants" resulting in the deportation of 12 women from Ghana, Uganda, Brazil and the Philippines. Collaborating with anti immigrant authorities is not only pervasive but encouraged in Dutch society.
Four MPs from Geert Wilders’ anti-immigration PVV wore a badge in parliament on Wednesday featuring a flag associated with neo-Nazi groups, the NRC reports.
The Prinsen flag, which has an orange section rather than red as in the current Dutch flag, was adopted by the Dutch national socialist party NSB in the 1930s.
It has since become a symbol of right-wing extremism and is used by groups such as the Nederlandse Volksunie and Stormfront.
Wilders has made a career out of his very strong, xenophobic and racist anti Muslim and anti immigrant stances, while at the same time, always stressing his unconditional support for Israel. Now, it seems that such support is no longer convenient for him (in the sense that to broaden his follow base in view of the European elections in May next year, he needs to “take it up a notch”). So, his party is now moving into an openly neo-Nazi position (something he always denied and a topic I have covered quite some when he vehemently condemned Anders Breivik’s “allegiance” to his politics). Members of Parliament from his Party are now wearing Neo-Nazi symbols out in the open, defiant, confrontational and clearly demonstrating exactly what this Party stands for.
Wilders, of course, as he always does, minimizes the symbolic value of this shameless display and claims he is “all for democracy”. His racism is not only vile because of its ideology, it’s even more vile because it is opportunistic and a mere tool he uses to access power. I expect that in the next few months, as the European Parliament election campaigns heat up, he will become even more daring, showing his true colors more so than he has done so far. He has already spoken of a Pan European alliance with the French Front National (a party that includes such stellar record like Holocaust denial, calls of violence against People of Color, violence against immigrants, etc etc), the Swedish Democrats (who, contrary to their name, are anything but democratic) and the Italian Northern League (a Party whose members regularly advocate violence against Black people, Muslims and immigrants).
I have speculated in the past about what I call “European networks of hate” and how these networks might grow in a European Union that has created a legal entitlement for the free flow of European citizens, resources and information across borders. So far, these “networks of hate” have been loosely associated and focus on exchange of information and some sporadic physical actions (like when the British BNP supporters came to Amsterdam to “manifest” their support for Wilders). These European elections seem to be consolidating the “networks of hate” into a more institutionalized and political body, with real power and representation. I, as usual, remain interested in their further development.
ETA: Photo of the Members of Parliament with their Neo-Nazi pins here (thanks to Janne Wolterbeek for the link)
A former detainee at Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre has alleged that women held there have been subjected to unwanted sexual advances and abuse by security guards and other officials.-
The “asylum seeker industrial complex” not only profits from the lives of vulnerable immigrants forcefully detained while awaiting deportation but, as expected, its bureaucrats are, indeed, part of rape culture. From the article:
The claims raise fresh questions over the treatment of vulnerable women at the Bedfordshire site, which is Britain’s largest immigration removal centre for women and can house up to 400 people. Sources at Yarl’s Wood say that more cases are likely to come to light following Tanja’s testimony, as women have been too fearful to come forward until now.
I have said on numerous occasions that the detention of undocumented migrants is a decisively urgent feminist issue. Some feminists have openly and vocally disagreed with me (one specific Australian woman even went as far as claiming that, if anything, this is an issue for human rights advocates to get involved and something feminism has no business working on). As if rape culture didn’t have a centuries long history of always targeting the most vulnerable Women and children of color.