Those who die to keep the EU safe: more migrant deaths at the Spanish border

Content warning for images of violence against undocumented migrants

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Image above via The Local. Caption of the image at the site reads: “A Spanish Civil Guard officer helps out a sub-Saharan immigrant after entering Spanish territory”. File Photo: Desiree Martín/AFP

This week I’ve written about my opposition to the European Parliament’s recommendations for undocumented women migrants. As a feminist I am expected to support measures that supposedly improve the conditions of women. And yet, I see a photo like the above and I cannot avoid the deeply symbolic value: the agent of the State is a Spanish woman in charge of disciplining those who dare cross borders.

The photo above is part of a feature about the deaths of 13 migrants who tried to cross the border between Morocco and Spain in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta on the morning of Thursday, February 6th (as of this writing, yesterday morning). Ceuta and Melilla are two Spanish sites in African territory. Morocco has held a very long dispute over these territories in what they effectively consider an act of colonialism on their land. Because the European Union recognizes these territories as part of Spain, they are included in the violent tactics to prevent undocumented African migrants from crossing the border. A wired fence has been erected in place to prevent people from crossing through. Moroccan border police works in cooperation with Spanish authorities and Frontex (the EU border control police) to prevent these crossings. People travel very long distances sometimes in inhumane conditions to make it to this area.

This photo, also from 20minutos should how the fence between Spain and Morocco is set up. On one side, the armored border police, on the other, immigrants walking on the beach area.

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Yesterday 13 migrants (twelve men and at least one woman) died while trying to get through the fence. Their bodies were washed by the sea while they tried to swim around the barbed wire. 20minutos reports in Spanish (translation here and throughout mine) 

The provisional death toll of undocumented migrants from sub Saharan Africa has raised to 13 after a group of 250 people attempted to cross through the beach. Francisco Antonio González Pérez, the government’s delegate in Ceuta emphasized the “unprecedented violence” displayed by the immigrants to attempt entry and admitted to the use of anti riot materials such as rubber bullets and blank ammunition in order to scare the immigrants off.

On another report about the deaths, 20minutos explains how the tragedy occurred

According to Government Delegate forces, the immigrants assaulted the border [NOTE: the word used by Spanish media is “asalto”, not that I am purposefully translating to pick biased terms, this IS the way media is reporting the deaths] at 7AM when they arrived from the hills close to Ceuta and stormed racing towards the border path. Some immigrants, in an attempt to avoid the Moroccan border police took to the sea. During the avalanche at least four died from crushing and another four by drowning [Note: this was an earlier report when all bodies had not been yet recovered]

20minutos also has a video at the site with images that show what the border between Spain and Morocco looks like. I have written about the militarization of EU borders and how the expansion of Frontex operations go hand in hand with discourses that portray undocumented migrants as a menace and a threat to European security. These images drive my ideas home much better than words ever could. From the video, some images:

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From the feature at The Local about these deaths:

The tragedy took place after Moroccan security forces and Spain’s Civil Guard Police repelled the entry of up to 400 sub-Saharan immigrants, Spanish daily 20minutos reported.

The news comes just days after a video filmed by a Melilla-based NGO worker showcased how Spanish authorities were illegally handing back to Morocco dozens of sub-Saharan immigrants who had jumped the security fence into the Spanish North African enclave.

“Morocco doesn’t accept injured immigrants,” reads the video narration in reference to the controversial barbed wire put up several months ago in a bid to dissuade immigrants from crossing the border.

The law stipulates that immigrants who enter Spanish territory should be taken immediately to the closest police station where they are identified and have the right to a legal and medical assistance as well as an interpreter.

Interior Minister Jorge Fernández Díaz admitted on Tuesday that there were “isolated cases” in which Spain’s Civil Guard breached legislation.

The footage also contradicts comments made by Spain’s delegate in Melilla, Abdelmalik el Barkani, who denied irregular expulsions ever took place.

Ceuta and Spain’s other north African enclave Melilla have the European Union’s only land borders with Africa.

They are seen as stepping stones to a better life in Europe for sub-Saharan migrants, who often risk their lives attempting to enter the tiny Spanish enclaves, either by sea or by storming the six metre (20 foot) barriers that separate them from Morocco.

The video mentioned above can be watched in its entirety here. However, since the captions are in Spanish, I have made a few screen captures and I’m providing English translations beneath each one so that those who watch the video know exactly what they are watching.

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Melilla, January 2014, there’s been a fence crossing (a “fence jump”) 2 km from this spot.

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This is the spot where immigrants are summarily expelled illegally (NOTE: an illegal expulsion is one where the undocumented person is not allowed to present their case in front of a court of law or immigration authorities)

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The border door that communicates with Morocco is open. A person lays on the ground for two hours, next to the door towards Morocco.

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SUVs arrive continuously, with their trunks full of people who have been detained in the city and are temporarily kept in the nearby ditch.

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Almost all of these people appeared to be injured. Some of them cannot move and are literally dragged around.

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Usually Moroccans do not accept injured people.

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During more than two hours the traffic of vehicles with their trunks full of immigrants was incessant, some of the immigrants were severely injured.

With the European elections coming close this May more racist rhetoric is used by populist politicians that are forging pan European alliances. We constantly hear how the EU needs to defend itself from this immigrant menace and how European wellbeing is under constant threat from the invasion of undocumented migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. We must protect ourselves at all costs! we often hear in European media. The deaths of thousands of migrants escaping the structural poverty and conflict brought upon them by a long history of colonial interventions and global neoliberal capitalism is obviously a fair price to pay so that Europeans can sleep soundly in the knowledge that they are protected.

Why I do not support the European Parliament recommendations on undocumented women migrants

I will start by doing something that I usually steer clear from which is to “explain” the European Union in a couple of sentences. This is, I am aware, reductionist and possibly erroneous in the sense that one cannot quite describe a system of government in simplistic terms. Yet, I believe it is necessary to do so in order to frame my ideas around certain resolutions.

The European Union is a governing body that is based in Brussels. The closest comparison I can draw from existing political systems is akin to the Federal Government in the US. The different European countries, in this set up, can be loosely compared to the different States in the US. Again, this is a facile comparison and there are many differences but the centralized nature of EU administration (especially in relation to the European Parliament or European Court can somewhat be compared to “Washington” as the central administration of US politics).

So, the website of the European Parliament has published a resolution they passed on January 6th with a list of recommendations regarding undocumented women migrants in the EU. Here are the key points of these recommendations: (emphasis mine on some key points)

The Committee on Employment and Social Affairs calls on the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, as the committee responsible, to incorporate the following suggestions in its motion for a resolution:

1. Notes that the irregular status of undocumented women throughout Europe makes it virtually impossible for their fundamental human rights, including the rights to education and health, to be respected, thus making these women particularly vulnerable to all forms of exploitation, low wages, unstable working conditions and social exclusion; considers that the best way of permanently improving their situation is to bring them within the legally established systems, since their irregular situation deprives them of social security and other employment benefits; notes that they may be further disadvantaged by furthermore, illiteracy and by language and adaptability barriers;

2. Calls on the Member States to take the following action: to put an end to discriminatory practices; to fight undeclared work and labour exploitation, inter alia by means of labour inspections; to recognise undocumented women as victims and allow them to access basic health services, employment and education; to enable them to have access to the legal system and to confidential advice in emergencies without fear of this resulting in measures to terminate their residence; to ensure that such action also involves the European Platform against Poverty and Social Exclusion, as well as networks of existing aid organisations, churches and civil society organisations; and, where necessary, to establish specific forms of data protection for the women concerned;

Note: victims of what? Because surely in order for a victim to exist there must be a victimizer. I consider the State to be the victimizer in the case of undocumented women migrants in the sense that the situation is part of a long history of inequalities related to Europe’s colonial past, corporate interventions in the so called Global South and neoliberal globalization that deprive migrants of a livelihood in their countries of origin.

3. Calls on the Member States and the Commission to recognise undocumented women migrants explicitly as a vulnerable social group, exposed to trafficking, discrimination and exploitation on the labour market;

Note: I would urge anyone interested in the mechanisms that the State uses to further violate the rights of undocumented women under the guise of “fighting trafficking” to read this article by Molly Smith in The Guardian. Alternatively, follow her on Twitter. Another woman that has many important things to say about this topic is Laura Agustin. Her blog (with plenty of material) can be found here and she’s also very active on Twitter here.

4. Calls on the Member States and the Commission to focus on the working conditions of undocumented women migrants, as a crucial step towards defining and recognising the difficulties to which they are exposed on the labour market and in order to ensure that their fundamental rights are respected;

Note: Oh really? Focus on the working conditions like that time undocumented women domestic workers who were neither trafficked nor working against their will were reported by the bus drivers who cooperated with the police and immigration authorities to have them deported because the women (all of them visibly of color) “looked illegal”?

5. Encourages the Member States to work actively to extend the possibilities for undocumented persons to become legal, in order to facilitate their access to the labour market and improve their inclusion in society;

6. Stresses that undocumented women in particular are often the victims of precarious, isolated, unhealthy or working conditions, are very often employed below their education level, in some cases experience abuse and violence, and are prevented by extreme dependency on their employers from asserting their fundamental and labour rights; calls on the Member States and the social partners to help undocumented women be brought within the legally established systems, thereby enabling them to better exercise their rights - including through the application of Directive 2009/52/EC providing for minimum standards on sanctions and measures against employers of illegally staying third-country nationals - respecting labour law and collective agreements;

7. Calls for the implementation of ILO Convention No 29 on forced labour; calls for consideration to be given to the special situation of women involved in forced labour – including not just forced prostitution but all involuntary work, the domestic sphere included – and for protection to be given to the undocumented migrant women concerned;

8. Stresses the need for the Commission and the Member States to strengthen labour inspections in order to combat the exploitation of undocumented women migrant workers and the violation of their fundamental human rights;

9. Calls for the creation of special forms of data protection for undocumented women, including victims of human trafficking, who turn in such situations to hospitals, doctors, the authorities and NGOs seeking for help or guidelines, to women’s shelters, counselling services or religious counsellors and for the protection of workers in such establishments who acquire information about irregular residence; believes help and support should be given in accordance with Directive 2011/36/EU on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims, and calls for this directive to be implemented in all Member States; stresses the need for women with irregular or unclear residence status to be able to access medical care without risk of expulsion;

10. Condemns all forms of violence, human trafficking, abuse and discrimination against undocumented women; stresses the need to ensure access to the help on offer in such situations without fear of this resulting directly in measures to terminate residence;

Note: again, notice how much emphasis there is on human trafficking which completely erases the agency of the undocumented women migrants. As if the only reason a woman would migrate is through trafficking and not because of structural conditions in their home countries.

11. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to provide sufficient female contact staff, care professionals, officials, assessors and other staff; calls for such measures out of respect for other religions and cultures and the need to protect against discrimination;

12. Stresses that undocumented women are vulnerable to abuse, and that barriers for them to engage in legal procedures are often to be found in the fear that their safety is not guaranteed, arising from a lack of shelters and procedural obstacles; calls on the Member States to ensure that such women are able to report any abuse suffered and are protected from any form of reprisal; believes that measures should also be introduced to assist such vulnerable women, including provision of shelters; calls on the Member States, accordingly, to take the necessary measures to identify such abuse and to guarantee access to justice;

13. Draws attention in particular to the situation of undocumented women who are pregnant or have children; stresses that they need special protection and a legal entitlement to healthcare and have the right to a birth certificate for their children in accordance with Article 7 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; emphasises that they must have access to appropriate medical care and to registry offices without having to fear that this will result in measures to terminate their residence; calls for special forms of data protection for women who in such situations turn to doctors, clinics and registry offices;

Note: my face, I wish you could see it right now.

14. Calls on the Commission and the Member States, through more extensive and integrated research, to close the gaps in reliable data and existing knowledge on the number and situation of undocumented persons in Europe, to draw the attention of the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) to the situation of undocumented women, and to take greater account of women in this category when implementing the inclusion targets of the Europe 2020 strategy;

15. Encourages the Member States to grant the children of women with irregular or unclear residence status access to the education system without the threat of this leading to prosecution and/or deportation;

16. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to reduce inequalities in employment between migrant workers and EU workers by offering secondary education and vocational training so that women, especially migrant women, can acquire new skills and are thus not restricted to low-paid jobs;

17. Calls, in the context of efforts to prevent migration by providing development aid to the migrants’ countries of origin, for the focus to be placed on women’s education and rights;

Note: neocolonial interventions under the guise of “aid” for “women’s empowerment” while the European Union continues promoting and pushing for European corporations to drain resources and exploit the very same workforces that eventually seek migration as a solution to their structural problems back home. Not a word about how H&M (a Swedish corporation) or Zara (Spanish), to use two examples though there are dozen similar ones, contribute to the exploitation of textile factory workers in Bangladesh. In the same breath, the Austrian Minister of Home Affairs calls Bangladeshi undocumented migrants “farm animals” and accuses Greece of “letting the barn door open” to allow them to come into the EU.

18. Asks for the opinion of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs for the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality on gender aspects of the EU Framework for National Roma Inclusion Strategies to be taken into account in this context.

I have spoken before about the fact that I do not support gendered recommendations or legislation that are solely based on benefiting undocumented women. To begin with, and going back to my simple explanation of the European Union as a governing body in the first paragraph, the reason I do not support this kind of legislation, even though it might seem contrary to my feminist politics is that the EU member States have very rigid and exclusionary definitions of “woman”. In most of the EU, woman = cis. That alone excludes the very specific ways in which trans women, gender queer and/ or other gender variant people are not part of these recommendations. Yesterday, I shared on Twitter this link about the appalling track record of Denmark in regards to the treatment of trans people (Content warning at the link for terrible language and cissupremacist explanations). Member States such as Denmark (to use this example, though Denmark is not the only EU country where trans people are subjected to State violence) do not need to expand their “legal definitions” of woman in order to comply with the recommendations above. They can continue promoting a cissuspremacist view of gender and the EU Parliament (just like the Federal Government in the US) cannot force such changes. I won’t quote from the article because the language used is quite dehumanizing and possibly triggering but to sum it up: Denmark only recognizes trans people in so far as they have undergone surgeries that render them sterile/ infertile and only after they have gone though extensive medical treatments including therapies, medications, assessments, etc. And this is just one example of how State definitions of gender operate solely within a cis binary (there are cis women and cis men, anyone who does not fit these narrow categories is effectively not considered worthy of gender based protections).

Another reason I do not support these gender based recommendations is because there are myriad ways in which men are affected by State violence that are very closely tied to stereotypical ideas around manhood and masculinity. To use again, another relatively recent example, the rights of an undocumented African father were violated by the State when his child was given for adoption in the UK. The mother’s rights were violated due to her alleged mental health issues (she is an Italian citizen) but the rights of the father were equally destroyed because as an undocumented man he was unable to travel across the continent to attend the Court’s hearings of the case. Children, regardless of their gender, have a right to a family life that contemplates the rights of both parents equally. The rights of an undocumented African man to be a father to his child are equally important to the rights of any woman to be a mother. More importantly, children have a right to both without State violence getting in the way of their well being.

Last but not least, rape culture manifests in very specific ways when the bodies of People of Color are on the line. Men of color have been historically subjugated through rape and sexual abuse. Their centuries old dehumanization has hinged on simultaneous ideas of hypersexualized behaviors and rape as “corrective” tools to further dominate them. I have written before about the sexual violence experienced by undocumented migrant men and how this seems to be an invisible topic within migrant rights discourses.

While undocumented women face unspeakable violence that is very gender specific, I cannot get behind more “white savior” narratives that single us out as “deserving” of protection while the definitions of gender, womanhood, parenthood and family rights are left in the hands of a State that continues to use colonial ideas on our bodies. Moreover, I cannot support definitions and codifications that erase violence that perpetuate these very same colonial histories and violences to this day. The same State that coded us as “less than” is not the best qualified to create the legal frameworks that supposedly contain the “solution” to these historical wrongs.

Dame Shirley Bassey and The Propellerheads - History Repeating

If you are somewhere where you can listen to music I invite you to hit play before you continue reading. “It’s just a little bit of history repeating” in the voice of Dame Shirley Bassey is the perfect soundtrack for this post.

The word is about, there’s something evolving

Whatever may come, the world keeps revolving

They say the next big thing is here

That the revolution’s near

But to me it seems quite clear

That it’s all just a little bit of history repeating

The newspapers shout a new style is growing

But it don’t know if it’s coming or going

There is fashion, there is fad

Some is good, some is bad

And the joke is rather sad

That its all just a little bit of history repeating

And I’ve seen it before[…]

Some people don’t dance, if they don’t know who’s singing

I am going to go back in recent history to 2008. In order to do that, I am going to quote from Jezebel, of all places. Mostly, I am picking this article as a source because one of the usual charges when Women of Color produce media analysis is that we use “biased” sources or that we “see things” where there are none. So, what better place to quote from than a source that I have pointed out numerous times as problematic (to say the least). This article, from 2008, talks about how brownfemipower had been writing about US immigration issues for a long while (years) when a white feminist, Amanda Marcotte suddenly went mainstream with the exact same topic and focus. Hugo Schwyzer got involved (LOL) to be the “arbiter” of the “harm” done to white women by “mean women of color” who saw through the content appropriation. bfp sustained a consistent attack where she was painted under the most cruel light and eventually closed her blog. 

Jezebel quotes brownfemipower (link to her current blogs can be found here). 

"I never said that it’s important to recognize that I had the idea first. I don’t give a shit who came up with the idea first—even if it WAS me. I don’t give a shit who thought of what first. I don’t fucking want credit for anything outside of existing. (For those who care, what I really said: There’s a lot of women of color (and men of color!) who have talked about immigration. There’s a lot of women of color and men of color who have examined how sexualized violence has been the foremost result of the "strengthening" of borders. There’s been a lot of us who have insisted for a long time now that immigration is a feminist issue, goddamn it, get your head out of your ass."

Fast forward to 2014. Hugo Schwyzer is back on Twitter (LOL x 1 million) endorsing the article at The Nation which yet again, stigmatizes “mean Women of Color” on social media/ Twitter. I blogged about being called “a bully” by the Deputy Editor of New Statesman and about the corporate and financial interests of the publication. And on Thursday evening, this was published at NS “Why we must end the detention of female asylum seekers in the UK” written by a white feminist.

I do not own this topic. However, I will refer to my quote above from bfp:

I never said that it’s important to recognize that I had the idea first. I don’t give a shit who came up with the idea first—even if it WAS me. I don’t give a shit who thought of what first[…] (For those who care, what I really said: There’s a lot of women of color (and men of color!) who have talked about immigration. There’s a lot of women of color and men of color who have examined how sexualized violence has been the foremost result of the “strengthening” of borders. There’s been a lot of us who have insisted for a long time now that immigration is a feminist issue, goddamn it, get your head out of your ass.

If you know what I write about, you’ll know women of color feminists, womanists and mujeristas (myself included) have been writing and talking about immigration in the European Union for years. As Dame Shirley Bassey sings it “it’s just a little bit of [feminist] history repeating”.

In case you need a quick refresher of my approach to immigration policy (or because you don’t feel like reading years of archives), I had a few things to say on Twitter. Here’s the Storify with the gist of it. In the meantime, I’ll just sing along with Dame Shirley Bassey.

An update on my post about the gang rapes of undocumented and refugee women and EU responsibility

On January 15th, I wrote “In the name of European safety: the gang rapes of undocumented and refugee women”. In the post I pointed to the European Union’s responsibility for the situation of migrants crossing through Libya trying to reach Europe with one caveat:

The last available data I could find is from 2009. There is no further information about the funding of these detention facilities in the post Gaddafi regime.

Today Statewatch has released a new batch of data regarding the post Gaddafi situation and the EU’s involvement in stopping undocumented migrants while they are in Libya to avoid dealing with asylum requests once they reach EU territory. From “Italy/Libya: Documents unveil post-Gaddafi cooperation agreement on immigration”:

Within the framework of bilateral cooperation, activities that were previously agreed to build a health centre attached to the “reception” centre in Kufrah will resume to provide first aid services to “illegal” migrants who arrive there from the surrounding areas.[…]

The Italian authorities will be immediately informed, whereas Libya has committed to reinforcing its land and sea borders to counter the departure of migrants from its territory. Italy commits to “immediately enact” its programme to supply Libya with the technical means and equipment that it asked for to improve surveillance of its borders. Activities concerning the project for a border monitoring system in the south of Libya will be resumed, as will the Sah-Med (Sahara and Mediterranean) project, both of which were agreed with support from the European Commission.[…]

As the title of Guido Ruotolo’s article that accompanied publication of the Tripoli Declaration and the official record of the meeting between interior ministers Cancellieri and Al-Taher Abdulali noted, it appears that cooperation will follow the trail beaten when Gaddafi was in charge. It should also be noted that most migrants who arrive in Italy from Libya are not Libyan citizens, thus references to “returns” largely concern migrants who crossed Libya as a transit country en route to Italy, reminiscent of the readmission of third country nationals who have suffered human rights violations in the north African country over the last few years.

In closing, the article states:

The EU and Italy are imposing tight border control regimes abroad in order to enact free movement within the EU. In doing so, they are attempting to cut off largely unregulated and age-old migration flows that are acknowledged as beneficial for the countries concerned, just like freedom of movement was introduced by EU countries for their own benefit. Effectively, the EU is paying countries to impose policies that are detrimental for them and to establish anti-immigration apparatuses that foster racism and lower human rights standards, at a huge expense.

Moreover, the EU is promoting, funding and training a system that results in systematic gang rapes and unspeakable sexual violence for migrants. Since the crimes happen in what is presented as a “non EU regulated” area (though funded through European taxpayers) there need not be any accountability or justice for the victims. As long as they do not reach EU borders, the State can continue claiming they are not “our” responsibility.

Detention of “unreturnable migrants” in Europe

There are migrants in the European Union caught in a de facto “legal limbo”. They are referred to as “unreturnable” because they cannot be deported. Often times the reason they cannot be deported is because they are stateless, people without citizenships or passports. In some cases, the countries where they were born no longer exist. In others, such as the case of a Roma man born in Macedonia, they are stateless because the countries where they were born refuse to acknowledge them as nationals. Other “unreturnables” have lost their passports (or they never had one to begin with) and the embassies of their countries of origin refuse to issue them new travel documents. There are many reasons why an undocumented migrant can become “unreturnable” in Europe. When that happens, they become targets of pointless detentions and subjected to further loss of rights. Detaining an “unreturnable migrant” is pointless because the detention can never be followed up by deportation (which is the justification to detain undocumented migrants to begin with). As a result, “unreturnable people” are detained for weeks, months or years and then released with absolutely no support system only to risk detention again in a never ending cycle of State violence.

“Point of no return” is a project led by the Flemish Refugee Action Foundation that interviewed 39 “unreturnable migrants” about their personal histories and the numerous detentions they have faced in Belgium, France, Hungary and the United Kingdom. Click through to read their stories and the lack of legal support for their situation across the EU.

Today in white European Union dehumanization - Link Roundup

Each of these items would deserve its own post with its own analysis but quite frankly, I am a bit burned out today. I can only offer so many words before these issues take a toll. So, here’s a roundup of items regarding the ongoing dehumanization of migrants/ People of Color in Europe:

At The Guardian, Diane Taylor writes “The UK dehumanises immigrants – no wonder tragedies happen in detention”. From the article: 

Asylum seekers are widely perceived to be a large group of undeserving people who scrounge benefits and gobble up social housing and jobs that should be reserved for British citizens. The facts – that asylum seekers only make up about 5% of migrants, are banned from working, and often have zero government support or accommodation – are drowned out by scaremongering from rightwing tabloids and politicians.[…]

Hardwick manages to claw back some of the humanity we have lost by highlighting shocking individual cases, including the pregnant woman who was tipped out of a wheelchair

Also at The Guardian, Diane Taylor and Rowena Mason write “Home Office staff rewarded with gift vouchers for fighting off asylum cases” 

Home Office officials are being rewarded with shopping vouchers for helping to ensure failed asylum seekers lose their attempt to stay in the country, new documents reveal.

Official guidance obtained by the Guardian shows that immigration staff have been set a target of winning 70% of tribunal cases in which asylum seekers are appealing against government decisions that they should leave the UK.

These officers are also incentivised by Home Office reward schemes involving gift vouchers, cash bonuses and extra holidays, according to information received under freedom of information laws.

This is such a textbook example of the marriage of capitalism and racism. What better way to “incentivize” dehumanization and Othering than through the promotion of consumerism? For every failed asylum seeker, a shopping reward as a tool to enforce white supremacist capitalism.

At Enet English (Greek Independent Press), Investigation into alleged Greek coastguard abuse of migrants. From the article:

"The Hellenic Coastguard commandant has ordered the investigation of three distinct cases of alleged ill-treatment of third-country nationals by staff of the Hellenic Coastguard for the period between August and December 2013," Shipping Minister Miltiadis Varvitsiotis informed Nils Muižnieks, the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner, on January 10.

In November, a German-based human rights organisation produced a report that said refugees attempting to enter Greece through the Aegean were being systematically, illegally and, in cases, brutally pushed back by the Greek authorities, in contravention of international law and with the complicity of the European authorities. Amnesty International has also raised its concerns about the same issue.

Ireland, 700% gap in reports of racism to gardai [Irish Police] and PSNI. From the article:

A MASSIVE 700pc gap between racist incidents reported to gardai and those reported to police in the North has prompted a call for an urgent review of reporting in the south.

The figures suggest that many victims in the south “are still choosing to suffer in silence rather than come forward,” according to the Immigrant Council of Ireland, which has reviewed statistics for the two jurisdictions.

At Open Democracy, Clare Sambrook writes “Man, 84, dies handcuffed in hospital: UK border control by the GEO Group”. From the article: 

At Gatwick Airport last year, on Wednesday 23 January, British immigration officials detained an elderly Canadian man. He was taken to hospital. Then he was locked up at Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre. A doctor examined him, reporting to the authorities that he was “frail, 84 years old, has Alzheimer’s disease …demented”.

The doctor marked his papers: “UNFIT for detention or deportation. Requires social care.”

The British Home Office chose to ignore the medical advice and continued to detain him.

On 8 February he was taken to hospital in handcuffs, then returned to his cell. Two days later he was taken back to hospital and kept in handcuffs for five long hours. His condition worsened. The cuffs stayed on. His heart stopped. Medical staff tried and failed to resuscitate him. The handcuffs were removed. His name was Alois Dvorzac.

Bonus Australian newspaper feature: What do you think about Australian Customs not retrieving the bodies of the asylum seekers who were in the boat that capsized off Christmas Island?

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Newspaper facsimile via Courteney Hocking H/T Sabine 

Italian Parliamentary dons blackface to “protest” benefits for Black immigrants

From Italy MP ‘blacks up’ for anti-migrant speech - Europe - Al Jazeera English (emphasis mine)

A right-wing Italian politician smeared his face with black greasepaint in parliament, advising Italians to “become a bit darker” if they wanted to take advantage of the country’s supposed hand-outs to black immigrants.[…]

"At the end of the day, maybe in this country in order to achieve anything we need to be a bit darker.

"I say we can all put make-up on and make ourselves a bit darker, and then we can all go around painted black and say we want the same help that non-EU citizens get.

The Northern League has accused Cecile Kyenge, the country’s Congo-born minister for integration, of using her post to “favour negritude”.

When I wrote about the racist constructions used in the European Union as a project of Empire, this is precisely the kind of ideology I was referring to. In this construction, to be Black, to be of color, to be Other is to never be fully acknowledged as belonging. This from the article:

Kyenge is Italy’s first black politician and has experienced multiple incidents of racism, not least from the Northern League.

Its leader Roberto Calderoli compared her to an orang-utan last year. He was later charged with defamation aggravated by racial discrimination.

Kyenge has also had bananas thrown at her during public appearances and the political party’s official newspaper has started printing her daily agenda, detailing her official appointments.

Here’s a hint of why these issues are nowhere close to be fixed:

In response, Nichi Vendola, the head of the left-wing SEL party, tweeted: “Can someone tell the racists that we’re in the Third Millennium and are a civilised country, despite them.

“The racists think they’re in Alabama or Mississippi of a half-century ago or in South Africa during apartheid.”

These places that Vendola points out as examples of horrific racism were made so through a history of European colonialism. The racism and violence that took place/ is taking place in those locations is a direct result of a European ideology that was imposed in them. To now point to them as “examples” of anything without any historical contextualization of how they came to be, where those ideas originated, etc, is to further push the myth of an enlightened Europe that somewhat bears no responsibility for how white supremacy came to be and how, to this day, the European Union is founded and expanded on these ideas. 

In the name of European safety: the gang rapes of undocumented and refugee women

TRIGGER WARNING FOR GRAPHIC DETAILS OF ASSAULT, TORTURE AND SEXUAL ABUSE. Further disclaimer: I usually steer clear of graphic depictions of rape, abuse or torture because I do believe they can (and often are) used as “media porn” without any motive behind their use (i.e. without a political or analytical context). However, I am making an exception because I wholeheartedly believe that these stories provide an essential element to contextualize EU wide immigration policies and border interventions.

On the news today: Migrants in Italy testify over alleged rape 

Migrants who survived a shipwreck in which 366 people died testified in court on Monday ahead of a trial against a Somali people smuggler who allegedly raped and tortured them during their voyage from Eritrea.

The seven Eritreans who gave evidence at the hearing included an 18-year-old girl who cowered in the arms of a police officer in court when she saw her suspected rapist, Elmi Mouhamud Muhidin, Italian media reported.[…]

Prosecutors during Monday’s hearing alleged that Muhidin was the director of the detention facility in Libya where the migrants were held before being taken to the coast to begin their ill-fated sea journey. The closed-door hearing took place in Palermo in Sicily.

The investigators said that a total of 20 women who boarded the ship had been raped by Muhidin and his henchmen and that only the girl who testified on Monday had survived the nighttime shipwreck just off Lampedusa.

Back in October, when I covered the Lampedusa tragedy, I wrote about the urgency of a feminist analysis on the gender specific aspect of mass death of women at sea. I pointed to the discrepancy between casualty figures of men and women. I’ve also written about how rape culture manifests in the migrant/ refugee experience of undocumented people who are unable to report their abuse and who are left with no legal recourse to obtain justice. So today, when I read about this trial, I was mostly interested in the context of these rapes and the ongoing manifestations of torture and abuse of migrant women, mostly from Africa.

When I approached this today, I immediately tried to find more background information behind this tidbit: Muhidin was the director of the detention facility in Libya. In my research, I came across this previously reported item at Al Jazeera, Lampedusa boat victims raped and tortured 

Dozens of the people who were on the boat that sank near the Italian coast last month were raped and tortured in Libya before starting their journey, Italian police said.

The police revelation on Friday came after they announced the detention of Mouhamud Elmi Muhidin, a Somali citizen, who is believed to be the alleged organiser behind the smugglers’ ship packed with migrants that sank off the coast of a southern Italian island, killing more than 365 migrants.

According to migrants’ testimony, the 20 women in the group were repeatedly raped and offered to Libyan visitors “as if they were a cup of tea”.

Muhidin, Libyan militiamen and Sudanese traffickers all took part in the alleged assaults in a detention centre in Sabha in southwest Libya, that Italian prosecutor Maurizio Scalia likened to “a concentration camp”.

"They forced us to watch our men being tortured with various methods including batons, electric shocks to the feet. Whoever rebelled was tied up," read the testimony of a 17-year-old Eritrean girl in the investigation, Italian newspaper La Repubblica daily reported.

The migrants were forced to pay up to $3500 for their freedom and their onward journey to the Libyan coast and a boat to Italy.

"The women who could not pay were assaulted," the girl was quoted as saying in her criminal charge.

She also described in horrific detail her own sexual assault, saying that Muhidin was one of the three men who raped her.

"They threw me on the ground, held down my arms and covered my mouth, and poured gasoline on my head, which burned my scalp, skin and eyes," she said through a translator. "And then, not yet happy, the three took turns raping me."

Now we know three facts:

1) there were ongoing gang rapes of undocumented/ refugee women
2) Mouhamud Elmi Muhidin was the director of a detention camp
3) the camp is located in in Sabha, southwest Libya

It would be easy to confine these facts to Libya and gloss over a wider picture. “This happens to African migrants in African territories, hence, these events are outside the realm of the European Union’s responsibilities”. Except from this, documented in the research published by Ariane Chebel D’Appollonia in her book “Frontiers of Fear”

Meanwhile, [in 2003] Italy bilaterally began the construction of a detention camp in northern Libya to facilitate deportations, and two additional camps in Kufra and Sabha were under discussion. Little information has filtered out regard-ing the funding of these facilities, The Italian government also provided Libya with training and equipment to asist in surveillance and management. In 2005 the Italian minister of interior reportedly pledged to give Libya €15 million over a three-year period for border control equipment.

Then there’s the extensive database at the Global Detention Project that documents the actual beginning of operations at the Sabha detention camp

Sabha. In 2008, the government opened a new immigration detention centre in Sabha, at the edge of the Sahara, which is a key entry point for undocumented migrants entering Libya (Fortress Europe 2009). According to Fortress Europe, the compound is made up of three buildings, where a total of 1,000 people can be detained. Between 60 and 70 people are held in each of the facilities eight-by-eight meter rooms. Detainees reportedly sleep on the ground. Light, ventilation, and time spent outside the rooms are reportedly grossly insufficient (Fortress Europe 2009). Many migrants detained in this facility are caught in the desert and detained in immigration detention facilities close to the border before being transported in truck-loads of 100 or 200 people to the Sabha facility.

And this:

Apart from this pact, there is no formal agreement between the two countries [ED NOTE: the two countries being Italy and Libya] for the return of migrants entering Italy illegally from Libya (HRW 2006a, p. 117; Government of Italy 2007). Instead, Italy has supported Libya’s immigration control efforts through verbal agreements and the provision of “a program of technical assistance to the Libyan Authorities,” including in “a) Professional training; b) Assistance for the repatriation of illegal migrants to Third countries; c) Supply of goods and services; d) Setting up of reception centres for illegal migrants; e) Operational and investigative cooperation” (Government of Italy 2007, p. 16).

Human rights organisations and media reports have alleged that Italy provides significant funding to Libya for the construction of immigration detention facilities (Brothers 2007), and that “once the Italian government has expelled foreigners back to Libya, it also pays for charter flights for Libya to send the people home,” including some fifty charter flights that transported 5,668 people between August 2003 and December 2004[…]

Since 2004, the Council of the European Union has engaged Libya on the subject of immigration, providing assistance through training and monitoring equipment designed to strengthen its maritime borders and encourage coordinated sea control operations (HRW 2009, p. 31). The EU is currently negotiating a package worth tens of millions of euros with Libya (HRW 2009, p. 32; EU Business 2009a). According to HRW, the EU has proposed funding for the construction of accommodation centres for asylum seekers (€20 million) and for migration management projects on Libya’s southern border (€60 million). As of late 2009, an agreement had yet to be reached because Muammar Al-Gaddafi reportedly refuses to sign a commitment involving less than €300 million (HRW 2009, p.32-34; EU Business 2009).

The last available data I could find is from 2009. There is no further information about the funding of these detention facilities in the post Gaddafi regime. The funds for the construction and operation (including training and weapons) are well documented, though: the Italian government.

However, to dispel any notions around lack of European involvement in the administration of these facilities, there is this blood chilling research at Gabriele Del Grande’s blog (I highly recommend reading it in its totality, since what Del Grande chronicles further expands understanding of the topic) 

In 2005, the former director of the Italian secret services (SISDe), Prefect Mario Mori, informed the Italian Parliament: “Undocumented migrants in Libya are caught like dogs” and put in centers so overcrowded that “policemen must wear a dust mask over their mouth because of the nauseating odours”. But the Ministry of Interior already knew it. Actually since 2004 the Italian police is training their Libyan colleagues in fighting immigration. And a few high officials of the Ministry of Interior, have visited the detention centers in Libya several times, including that in Kufrah. But silence was imposed over reality. The same hypocrisy has been shown by the European Union. In a report of 2004, the European Commission defined the conditions of detention camps in Libya “difficult” but in the end “acceptable in the light of the general context”. Three years later, in May 2007, a delegation of Frontex visited the south of Libya, including the prison of Kufrah, to lay the foundations for a future cooperation. Guess what they wrote: “We appreciated both the diversity as the vastness of the desert”.

I often refer to the European Union as a “project of Empire”. For an Empire to exist, it necessitates subjugated bodies against whom the Empire sets its policies and whose resources are drained to be concentrated at the Empire’s belly, away from the countries originating them. The Empire is always established in an “us vs. them” dichotomy, with “them” never allowed “in”, to belong. Further more, the Empire is established as a system of discipline for the subjugated. Torture, rape, degradation, enslavement: all of these and more have been historically used in its construction. What sets this EU apart from older Imperial projects is that nowadays, instead of resorting to old methods of conquer, similar results can be achieved through neoliberal policies: financial aid for the construction of facilities and training, immigration policies, the administration of “outsiders” through Frontex, the “rescue operations” to maintain a veneer of respectability in upholding the myth of human rights.

And yet, if you’ve read this far, I can only ask: who set up the necessary structures for these gang rapes to take place? Who trained the personnel? Who had an in depth overview of the degrading conditions of migrants being held in these detention camps? And above all, under the pretense of whose protection are these gang rapes and tortures allowed to occur?

New findings point to Italy’s responsibility in mass death of migrants near Lampedusa

via The Malta Independent “Lampedusa tragedy: Did Italy let migrant boat enter Maltese SAR zone to avoid responsibility?

In an interview conducted by L’Espresso journalist Fabrizio Gatti, Dr Mohammad Jammo testified that he had called RCC Rome at 11am and warned that the boat was slowly sinking, having been holed by machinegun fire from a Libyan patrol boat the night before.[…]

One plausible theory that could explain what happened is a political dispute between Malta and Italy. Dr Jammo insists that he first got through to the Italians at 11am. At this time the migrant boat was inside the Libyan SAR zone, which is not well patrolled. Besides, according to Dr Jammo, the Libyans had fired on the migrant boat, so a Libyan rescue was probably out of the question. The Italian ITS Libra and Guardia Costiera and Guardia di Finanza boats stationed in Lampedusa were the closest assets and could have been sent to help. They could have reached the migrant boat in about an hour-and-a-half. But the lack of orders for them to do so by Italy could signify a refusal by Rome to get involved. The Armed Forces of Malta, on the other hand have never clarified if they asked for help from the Italians. It is understood that the general feeling of the Maltese authorities is that Italy was reluctant to help the migrants.

For those new to this blog, in the EU, “migrant” is nothing but a code word for Black and Brown people who are trying to reach borders without visas. They are usually referred to as “asylum seekers”, “refugees” or, in some rare cases, “illegal immigrants”. More about this language here.

As per the article linked above (which I strongly recommend reading), it seems that again, we are at the beginning stages of the ongoing and well documented shifting of responsibilities of mass deaths of undocumented migrants in the Mediterranean. 

From the archives on this very blog:

May 2011: Dozens of African migrants were left to die in the Mediterranean after a number of European military units apparently ignored their cries for help.

April 2, 2012: A catalogue of failures by Nato warships and European coastguards led to the deaths of dozens of migrants left adrift at sea.

Bonus long post I wrote at Tiger Beatdown, February 2012 with (an incomplete) list of failures in saving immigrant lives by Frontex.

Bonus 2, October 4th, 2013: on the “gender gap” in the Lampedusa death toll.

On December 20th, I posted about Italy’s treatment of the survivors of the Lampedusa boat tragedy. I used the word “torture” to describe the systematic abuse that the survivors are subjected to. On a follow up post on January 3rd, I posted about another rescue operation in the Mediterranean that involved more than 200 people in a sinking boat. Back then I wrote this:

There is a very strong focus on “exporting” the European version of human rights while at the same time refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants inside European borders are not afforded basic human dignity. A lot of the rhetoric about “promoting and exporting human rights” is merely a marketing device devoid of praxis when it applies within EU member States and the necessary accountability that would somewhat legitimize those “intentions” stated in the document.

How many more instances do we need to document before these deaths are acknowledged as both systematic and systemic within a political project that bases its marketing on “promotion of human rights”? Whose human rights are protected and who isn’t acknowledged as human enough to be cared for? I’ve asked this many times before but it bears repeating, in this political project known as The European Union, whose lives are worth cherishing?

schrbk-deactivated20140307 asked:

hi, do you have some recommended reads/books on feminism/politics/immgration specific to the situation in the EU? I'm from Belgium myself

Rather than giving you a book or a list of books (though this one here would be a good one to read), I’d do something better, create a list of Euro folks who regularly comment on books, media and intellectual production.

Since you are in Belgium but I am unsure whether you prefer English, Flemish or French, then I’ll do the next best thing, direct you to people who cover all three languages!

Again, a couple of caveats: 

1. I am only including People of Color who are based in Europe in this list not because there isn’t any white person doing good work but because I want to center our voices in relating our experiences and multitude of differences as well as similarities. As I’ve said many times, I am very interested in “a choral, shared history” and I hope this list would reflect that. 

2. This is not a complete list and it is certainly not meant to encompass everyone doing awesome work. These suggestions are based on interactions I have through this space, Twitter and/or people I know personally. As I said yesterday on the Latina feminist reader, I am very happy to continue expanding this list with other suggestions. I am focusing this list on feminism of color/ womanism and migrant experiences only. I insist, this doesn’t mean there aren’t other people doing great work in Europe, offering political analysis or commentary. It’d be impossible to list them all so, instead, I am only centering the specifics of the question received: gender, politics and migration/ race.

For French feminism of color and awesome commentary, head to Ms. Dreydful’s blog. Also, if you are on Twitter, I strongly recommend you follow her.

For Flemish/ Dutch language, I would recommend Tamghrabit’s blog on this here Tumblr. She is also on Twitter and again, if you use the platform, I strongly recommend you follow her. Incidentally, she is the editor of Alert Magazine which publishes in both English and Flemish/Dutch. Link here.

Another Netherlands based Tumblr I would highly recommend is Queerintersectional. I won’t reveal anything about this person’s identity because I don’t know how comfortable they are with details of their lives being on the internet (a topic we actually never discussed) but suffice to say, I consider this person a dear friend and their politics are deep cutting, sharp and smart as hell.

Mieke’s blog here, Samblabelanda is a project to document her Indonesian heritage and family history within the Dutch colonial past. And a link to Twitter. It’s mostly in English but with a strong focus on Dutch history.

Sara Salem, who is Egyptian/Dutch blogs in English about colonialism, post colonialism, race and Marxism. Here’s a link to her Twitter where she is very active sharing news and commentary.

If you can read Dutch, head over to Roet in het Eten, Quinsy Gario’s blog for the eponymous radio show (which you can also listen to online, the team regularly posts soundcloud files, - they haven’t yet uploaded the show I was a guest at a few weeks ago when they do, I’ll share a link so that you can all listen to me raging in Dutch). Also, if you are on Twitter, follow Quinsy Gario there, he regularly shares info about events, shows, conferences, etc on his stream. Roet in het Eten is also a great place to read regularly because they post links to other blogs and media in the Dutch language.

For English language (British based), I strongly recommend the Black Feminists blog. If you are on Twitter, you can follow them here.

A must read, Sara Ahmed’s Feminist Killjoys blog. She is London based and one of the most prominent intellectual voices within European feminism. Her Twitter is also a must follow for those who use the platform.

Another favorite of mine is Reni Eddo-Lodge. Her blog can be found here. Again, she is very active (and awesome) on Twitter.

On this here Tumblr, “The “Right” kind of Brown” with commentary about race, disability and social justice from the UK. And a link to follow on Twitter.

This here Tumblr and The Body Narratives by Hana Riaz who you should also follow on Twitter. She writes a lot about self care and love, two topics we should hear more about every day and she’s involved in some great projects about self image.

Bonus Euro Women of Color on Twitter:

Judeinlondon, as her name suggests, London based. She shares links and commentary on current events and media and she always has sharp observations about culture and politics.

Ylva Habel, Stockholm based academic who shares her experiences and insights on issues pertaining to People of Color in Sweden.

Aniqah, a London based Queer WoC feminist Muslim journalist who regularly shares news and commentary.

Carol Roper, UK based, decoloniality, radical Black history, general awesomeness.

A selection of British front pages from the past few weeks. Image via Nick Lowles.
Now, when I speak about control of mainstream media platforms and their responsibility in shaping public discourse, this is exactly what I have in mind. Framing these discourses as institutional and institutionalized racism is usually met with hand wringing and denial. There isn’t such a thing as institutional or institutionalized racism! We are in the 21st century, we are told. Those are things of the past! Europe is the most tolerant and enlightened! Human rights RAH RAH RAH! etc ad nauseum. I could probably compile a similar graphic with images from Dutch media because these ideas are so pervasive across all the EU.  
Last month I wrote about a study on depression released in The Netherlands and I highlighted how the figures showed that People of Color are disproportionately affected in much greater numbers than white Dutch people. Since I wrote that post I’ve been thinking a lot about how media portrayals of PoC affect our self perception and, in turn, our self esteem and mental health. One recurring notion that I’ve been considering is how media will constantly publish outlandish proposals from local politicians involving threats of deportations even for those who were born in The Netherlands but are not ethnically Dutch. This functions as a constant reminder of our precarious situation and, in turn, serves a purpose of disciplining potential dissent. Naturally, these proposals of deportations are never carried away, they are merely a rhetorical device for populist politicians to garner support for their racist and xenophobic platforms. And yet, in spite of the fact that these proposals are just air balloons, they deeply shape our standing and perception. Media constantly reminding us that we are precarious, temporary, open to be uprooted at the whim of the white majority.
Those who speak Dutch (or have the patience to use google translate) should pursue the blog “The Netherlands speaks”. There is an endless compilation of these ideas from all over Dutch social media, specifically targeting People of Color (regardless of their place of birth) with threats of deportation. In turn, mainstream media echos these views when they come from politicians like Geert Wilders or similar ones. Across all these platforms the same idea resonates: you are not one of us and, above all, you are not wanted.

A selection of British front pages from the past few weeks. Image via Nick Lowles.

Now, when I speak about control of mainstream media platforms and their responsibility in shaping public discourse, this is exactly what I have in mind. Framing these discourses as institutional and institutionalized racism is usually met with hand wringing and denial. There isn’t such a thing as institutional or institutionalized racism! We are in the 21st century, we are told. Those are things of the past! Europe is the most tolerant and enlightened! Human rights RAH RAH RAH! etc ad nauseum. I could probably compile a similar graphic with images from Dutch media because these ideas are so pervasive across all the EU.  

Last month I wrote about a study on depression released in The Netherlands and I highlighted how the figures showed that People of Color are disproportionately affected in much greater numbers than white Dutch people. Since I wrote that post I’ve been thinking a lot about how media portrayals of PoC affect our self perception and, in turn, our self esteem and mental health. One recurring notion that I’ve been considering is how media will constantly publish outlandish proposals from local politicians involving threats of deportations even for those who were born in The Netherlands but are not ethnically Dutch. This functions as a constant reminder of our precarious situation and, in turn, serves a purpose of disciplining potential dissent. Naturally, these proposals of deportations are never carried away, they are merely a rhetorical device for populist politicians to garner support for their racist and xenophobic platforms. And yet, in spite of the fact that these proposals are just air balloons, they deeply shape our standing and perception. Media constantly reminding us that we are precarious, temporary, open to be uprooted at the whim of the white majority.

Those who speak Dutch (or have the patience to use google translate) should pursue the blog “The Netherlands speaks”. There is an endless compilation of these ideas from all over Dutch social media, specifically targeting People of Color (regardless of their place of birth) with threats of deportation. In turn, mainstream media echos these views when they come from politicians like Geert Wilders or similar ones. Across all these platforms the same idea resonates: you are not one of us and, above all, you are not wanted.

More than 200 migrants have been rescued from an overcrowded boat at risk of sinking in rough waters in the Mediterranean Sea, the Italian navy said Thursday.

Italian navy rescues 233 migrants from Mediterranean boat - CNN.com

From the article:

The boat, which measured only 10 meters (33 feet) long, was carrying 233 people without life jackets, the navy statement said.[…]

The migrants, from Eritrea, Nigeria, Somalia, Pakistan, Zambia and Mali, were all moved safely, the statement said.

After being transferred to a frigate, the migrants will be taken to the port of Augusta, on the Italian island of Sicily, where they are expected to arrive Thursday evening, it said.

What the article doesn’t mention is that once these migrants arrive in Italy, they will be met with conditions like the ones described here, including hosing in ice cold temperature and other torture practices. 

Last week, nine immigrants sew their mouths shut to demand release. From the article

Nine illegal immigrants detained in Italy have stitched their lips together with thread from their bedsheets in a protest to demand their release from what they say are intolerable living conditions.

The protest, which started at a centre near Rome on Saturday, came days after video emerged of immigrants at another camp standing naked in the cold to be sprayed for scabies. It drew new calls for the closure of detention centres and for changes to immigration laws.

Using a needle improvised from a cigarette lighter, four Tunisians each made a single stitch to join their lips in the middle, Filiberto Zaratti, a lawmaker who visited the protesters, told Reuters.

Five Moroccans later imitated the gesture, according to the centre’s manager, speaking on Italian television. The protesters asked to be let out of the centre, the manager said.

The migrants have now allowed medical personnel to remove the stitches due to health risk associated with hunger strike but other protests are currently spreading across Italy due to the appalling human rights violations of undocumented migrants in detention centers.

Italy denounced for hosing down migrants in cold

via Italy denounced for hosing down migrants in cold - The Malta Independent:

Italy’s government has promised an investigation into the treatment of migrants after a video was taken of naked refugees being hosed down and disinfected in cold weather at a holding center on the southern island of Lampedusa.

The video, which aired Monday on state-run RAI television, showed a dozen male migrants who lined up in a warehouse, then stripped to be hosed down with a solution to treat scabies. One of the migrants told RAI that men and women had been disinfected this way a few days ago.

In another article, at ANSAMed, there are more details of this torture of migrants. Yes, I am using the word “torture” because hosing down migrants in a detention center perfectly fits this definition: The action or practice of inflicting severe pain on someone as a punishment or to force them to do or say something, or for the pleasure of the person inflicting the pain. From the article:

[Italian House Speaker Laura Boldrini’s] comments came after the TG2 evening newscast on State broadcaster Rai on Monday night aired footage shot with a cell phone by a Syrian detainee, showing dozens of men and women being forced to strip publicly outdoors in the winter weather before guards hosed them down with disinfectants.

"We are being treated like animals," the author of the footage told TG2. "Men and women undergo the same humiliation every three days to cure scabies, which we caught since we came to the detention center”.[…]

Critics of Italy’s migrant detention centers say they are being run like sub-standard prisons.

An October investigative report on the Lampedusa holding center by L’Espresso news magazine documented people being made to eat and sleep on the ground, covered only with paper blankets in the freezing weather, children catching head lice, and stray dogs being allowed to wander about, urinating on the refugees’ clothes and luggage.

European version of “human rights” as it is applied to undocumented migrants. On June 25th 2012, The European Union released its “Strategic Framework and Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy" (link to PDF). From the document (emphasis mine):

The European Union is founded on a shared determination to promote peace and stability and to build a world founded on respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law. These principles underpin all aspects of the internal and external policies of the European Union. 

Human rights are universally applicable legal norms. Democracy is a universal aspiration. Throughout the world, women and men demand to live lives of liberty, dignity and security in open and democratic societies underpinned by human rights and the rule of law. Sustainable peace, development and prosperity are possible only when grounded upon respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law. […]

The EU is aware of these challenges and determined to strengthen its efforts to ensure that human rights are realised for all. The EU will continue to throw its full weight behind advocates of liberty, democracy and human rights throughout the world.

The EU seeks to prevent violations of human rights throughout the world and, where violations occur, to ensure that victims have access to justice and redress and that those responsible are held to account. To this end, the EU will step up its efforts to promote human rights, democracy and the rule of law across all aspects of external action.

There is a very strong focus on “exporting” the European version of human rights while at the same time refugees, asylum seekers and undocumented migrants inside European borders are not afforded basic human dignity. A lot of the rhetoric about “promoting and exporting human rights” is merely a marketing device devoid of praxis when it applies within EU member States and the necessary accountability that would somewhat legitimize those “intentions” stated in the document. As it is, the document becomes a neocolonial mechanism to intervene around the world any time European interests might be in jeopardy while the people who hail from the countries where the EU intervenes are systematically abused within EU borders.

#24h4hope, undocumented migrants’ vigil in Dublin, Ireland

Ryan aged 3.5 years has the last word at the vigil #24h4hope #justice4undocumented @MigrantRightsIR pic.twitter.com/p70RQnCLiX

— Edel (@edelmcginley)

December 12, 2013

The 24 hours vigil organized by the Migrant Rights Center Ireland has ended.

I have Storified the entire day with highlights of support, photos and commentary from those in attendance and/or solidarity. The reason I have such a keen interest in this event is because it’s a huge exception across the European Union. Undocumented immigrants are usually invisibilized, reduced to populist fodder by politicians trying to score quick votes. Even though there are hundreds of thousands of them living within our borders, there is hardly any media acknowledgement and practically zero willingness to address the injustices. For the past 24 hours, politicians, union leaders and human rights organizations have attended the vigil and spoken in support of legal regularization for undocumented migrants living in Ireland. I see this as a historical moment in terms of political support and bringing the issue to the wider public opinion. 

As I’ve written before, the language of European immigration is broken. I see this action as a way to start addressing that fracture and, in turn, offer solutions to those that need them the most.

migrantrightscentre

migrantrightscentre:

A. Because it’s the smart thing to do, and it’s the right thing to do.

It’s the smart thing to do…

…for the economy. Undocumented workers contribute €18 million in consumer spending every year. Many already pay tax, but bringing everyone into the tax bracket would generate €75 million…

Read the rest at the link. This is part of the #24h4hope vigil currently taking place in Dublin.