Manston: The spectacularly ordinary cruelty of England’s abuse of the vulnerable

The past week has demonstrated, once again, if any demonstration was needed, the complete mess that is the English government’s `reception policy’ towards asylum seekers, refugees, and, more generally, migrants. At the center is the Manston `processing center’, located in Kent. Early this week, journalists arrived and were refused entry. Security guards began herding people into the buildings, when a group of children broke through their ranks and ran towards the fence. One girl got close enough to throw a message in a bottle over the fence. The letter describes abuse of pregnant women, children living with disabilities, everyone: “We really need your help.” Manston has a capacity for 1600. At the time of the letter, it housed at least 4000 people. In response to the uproar over conditions, the Home Office took some residents, drove them to Victoria Station, and dumped them there, in the middle of the night, without accommodations, winter clothing, information, or anything. This is what `processing’ looks like.

This weekend, it was revealed that people without any experience in asylum or immigration procedures are being hired off the street and, with little to no preparation, are put in charge of adjudicating asylum applications: “It’s a total disaster. They don’t know what they’re doing”. Meanwhile, asylum seekers who make it through the first rung of `processing’ are often dumped in hotels where they are forced to stay, often for over a year. As one Kurdish Iranian asylum seeker put it, “One, two, three months is reasonable in a hotel, but not 17 months. Expecting us to stay with nothing to do is intolerable.” What is going on? Processing. Processing disaster. Processing the intolerable.

The situation at Manston is so bad that the Border Force union is joining a legal action over “horrendous, inhumane and dangerous” conditions. 4000 crowded into a space where the maximum 1600 would have difficulty. People are not supposed to stay longer than 24 hours. They’re staying for more than 30 days. Infectious disease is spreading throughout the detained population. The sanitation is inadequate, to put it delicately. On Thursday, a minister in the Home Office admitted the center was operating illegally. It is still in operation. Seventeen-year-old Mohammad, who spent 25 days at Manston, put it succinctly, “It is not a situation that humans deserve to live in.”

It is not a situation that humans deserve to live in.

There is a tendency to report this situation as one of “neglect”: “Britain’s asylum system is broken after years of political neglect.” Others argue the system has `failed’ or it’s `broken’. Nothing could be further from the truth. The system wants to produce the public spectacle of cruelty. Cruelty is the point. Asylum originally meant `refuge’, “sanctuary’, `inviolable’. Today, it means both `vulnerable’, on one hand, and `dangerous’, on the other. The Home Office has described asylum seekers as an invasion. The Home Office has been using that rhetoric for over twenty years. So, when you read that children are being tortured, know that that is the intention. The spectacle of cruelty is the intention. It is not a situation that humans deserve to live in. Shut it down.

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Photo Credit: Kent Online)

The spectacularly ordinary cruelty of England’s abuse of the vulnerable

While State cruelty is nothing new, since the advent of neoliberal state practice, the cruelty has become `dignified’ by rendering the objects of the violence both invisible and fully public, through a prism darkly of obfuscating discourse, networked technologies that are both massive and seemingly impenetrable and simultaneously intimately invasive, and a State addiction with policing and incarceration, all in the name of security and something aptly named criminal justice. In the United Kingdom in the past month, this has somewhat garnered attention with the Home Office’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. Yes, Rwanda. This plan has been referred to as callous and torture. Prince Charles, who is headed for a Commonwealth meeting in Kigali later this month, has called the plan, and the entire direction it betokens, “appalling”, and Prince Charles is certainly someone who knows a thing or two about appalling behavior. While all these critiques are apt, they miss the point. The plan is spectacularly ordinarily cruel, and the cruelty is the point.

From the international perspective, the idea of Rwanda is an extension of the global “safe third country” programme. Trump tried it with El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. The United States still has a “safe third country” agreement with Mexico. Australia tried it with Cambodia, Nauru, Manus Island. Sometimes it’s called “safe third country”, other times It’s called “country of first asylum”, as Europe has `negotiated’ with Greece and Turkey. Whatever it’s called, it means “Don’t come here if you really need help.” Also, whatever it’s called, every iteration has been, on the surface, a screaming disaster … unless, of course, cruelty is the point.

The latest British iteration is marked by deception and investment. The Home Office spent £14,273.32, or $ 17,593.79, to develop “branding and messaging.” The spent an additional £38,000 to £50,500, or up to $109,000, on Facebook and Instagram ads. This is only a partial accounting. All of this in a time of rampaging inflation and government calls for austerity, for “the public good.” The Home Office informed asylum seekers that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees was intimately involved and working with the Rwanda plan. That was not and is not true, as the UNHCR has stated publicly.

In its implementation and design, the Home Office refused to consider the particular dangers to LGBTQ+ refugees. It refused to consider the particular dangers to refugees living with disabilities. For those asylum seekers who reported that, due to past trauma as well as the prospect of being shipped off to Rwanda, they were at serious risk of suicide, the Home Office provided a “trauma handout pack”. Here’s their considered advice: “Do a crossword or Sudoku”. “Ask the officers for a job”. “Punch a punching bag”. “Do some colouring or paint”. “Try aromatherapy”. In other words, just die already. Cruelty is the point.

In the past month, reports have shown that, between 2016 and 2021, more than half of the 5,403 incarcerated people in England assessed by prison-based psychiatrists to require hospitalization were never transferred. That’s an 81% increase over the preceding five years. The situation is particularly dire for and prevalent among incarcerated women. Women who should be in treatment are left, often in solitary, at places like HMP Styal, where 18-year-old Annelise Sanderson was sent in the summer of 2020. From the outset, Annelise Sanderson said she was unwell and wanted to die. The staff did less than nothing, and in December 2020, Annelise Sanderson killed herself, or better was executed. According to Shell Ball, a formerly incarcerated woman, speaking of her time at HMP Styal, where, despite being diagnosed with anxiety, depression, PTSD and borderline personality disorder, she never saw a psychiatrist, was never transferred to any medical facility, said, “About 90% of the women in there had mental health issues – most probably that’s why they were in there in the first place.”

In 2020, a woman at HMP Styal endured a stillbirth, in her cell. When she had cried out, saying she was in excruciating pain, she was given two aspirins and told to chill out. Do a crossword or Sudoku. Months earlier, a woman at HMP Bronzefield, England’s and Europe’s largest women’s prison, alone in her cell, gave birth to a child. The child died. In both institutions,  self-harm is rampant. No matter. Pregnant women are sent there anyway. Looking at this situation, some ask, “How cruelly they must have been treated. And for what?

From the “Rwanda plan” to HMP Styal and HMP Bronzefield, the message to the vulnerable, to those living with trauma, mental health, grief and sorrow, is as it has been, “Do a crossword or Sudoku, and then just die”. Cruelty is the point. The point is cruelty.

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Image Credit: Raluca Bararu, “Anatomy of Cruelty” / Artsper)

Mass tragedies involving migration have increasingly become normalized

Thousands of family members continue to search for a missing migrant.

This is how 2021 ends. A boat filled with 120 Rohingya Muslim women, children, men – 60 women, 51 children – was on its way from Myanmar to Malaysia. Those in the boat hoped that when they reached Malaysia, they would be given sanctuary. On Sunday, the boat engine failed and the boat started to leak, off the coast of Indonesia. At first, the Indonesian government wouldn’t let the refugees in. Finally, after days of international and local pressure, on Wednesday, the government relented and gave permission, but, they explained, only because the situation on the sinking, overcrowded boat was “severe”. Today, Friday, the boat was towed into harbor, and people began to disembark. The rescue, in heavy rain and high seas, took a grueling 18 hours. Why does a government have to explain rescuing people from a sinking boat? Because they are refugees, women, Muslim, Rohingya, and the list goes on. This is how 2021 ends, much as the previous ten and more years.

On December 25, in three separate incidents, three boats filled with refugees capsized. At least 31 people died, and, as of now, scores of people on those boats are still missing. It is the worst Aegean death toll since October 2015.

The next day, December 26, close to 30 people washed ashore in Libya, refugees who had tried to cross the Mediterranean, just so much flotsam from another shipwreck. These corpses capped a week in which at least 160 people, migrants, drowned in shipwrecks off the coast of Libya.

A month earlier, a boat filled with migrants sank somewhere in the English Channel. At least 27 people died. That is the single biggest recorded loss of life in the English Channel. One witness, a refugee who was in another boat that happened into the same waters soon after the first boat sank, recalled, “Our boat was surrounded by dead bodies. At that moment my entire body was shaking.”

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees that from January to November more than 2,500 people have died in the Mediterranean or in the Atlantic, on their way to the Canary Islands. The International Organization for Migration reports that, as of early December, the 2021 death toll for migrants during migration journeys had surpassed 4,470. They assumed the final tally would be considerably higher, given the lag in time between deaths and the reports thereof. The death toll last year was 4,236. The death toll at the Mexico – U.S. border was already 651, higher than in any year since they started recording, 2014. More migrant deaths were recorded in South America than in any previous year. Europe saw historical highs in migrant deaths. The Atlantic route to the Canary Islands saw the highest death toll in over a decade. According to the IOM, “Mass tragedies involving migration have increasingly become normalized.”

 

 

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Image Credit: IOM / Salam Shokor) (Photo Credit: Al Jazeera / Twitter)

Refugee Families Adjust to the U.S. After Fleeing Afghanistan

Soora and Abed Jawad

The Taliban seizing control of Afghanistan back in late August has caused thousands of Afghan families to leave everything they have ever known to flee the country due to concerns with their safety and wellbeing. These families did not have many choices; their options were to stay and live-in fear or escape to a new country. Although the latter appears to be the better option of the two, having to evacuate to a brand-new country to escape danger and violence can also be intimidating- especially when the new country is overseas, speaks a different language, and has different cultural values, norms and expectations. These factors make fleeing a country strongly affect families and their structures and dynamics, which has been the case for many of these Afghan families.

Due to most of Afghanistan’s neighboring countries – Uzbekistan, Pakistan, and Iran – closing their borders, over 100,000 Afghans were airlifted out of the country by the United States and their partners. About 65,000 of these refugees are being placed in the United States, though it is not clear how many families this number consists of. With Afghanistan sitting in the northern and eastern hemispheres of the world, it will take adjusting for these individuals and families to become situated with the culture and environment that stems from the United States being in the western hemisphere. In fact, Soora Jawad of the Jawad family interviewed by CNNeven went to express her surprise at all the greenery here in the U.S., something many U.S. citizens do not tend to think much of.

When discussing fleeing their native country, the Jawads say it feels like they are starting over. The family of three had very little money after arriving in the U.S., but Soora says this is what they had to do for the sake of their young daughter, after facing immense amounts of stress and being unable to eat due to worrying about their child.

The Jawads are now living in Virginia- one of the states welcoming the most amount of refugees, at about 1,166. The family found housing through one of the nine resettlement agencies supported by the Afghan Placement and Assistance program to provide resources for the Afghan families in need as they settle into the U.S. They were given comfort items by a refugee support group, including toys for their daughter and beds to sleep in- an upgrade from sleeping on the floor like they had to do when they first arrived.

However, the Jawads are now left jobless and must start paying their rent on their own after two months. Back in Afghanistan, Soora was nearly complete with her residency to become a heart surgeon and her husband Abid worked as an accountant- both high-paying jobs that promised financial stability that the family now does not have. They may be smiling in the interview but searching for jobs can impose great deals of stress and even strain on refugee families like the Jawads, as if leaving home with little to no clothes and toiletries and other belongings wasn’t enough.

The Jawads are just one family that fled from Afghanistan. Reality is, there’s plenty more, and not all have some of the advantages the Jawads have- most likely, not all are as highly educated as Soora and Abid are and many do not speak English like this family does, as well. And in this case, the entire family got to flee together, and it is reasonable to believe that this may have not been the case for all refugees. Lack of education, language barriers, and the splitting of families can all impact Afghan refugees and their families and the Shinwaris are an example of one that have been affected.

The Shinwari family is another Afghan family that recently fled their homeland due to the country’s current circumstance. Although this family has also been given resources upon arrival, the Shinwaris face many obstacles that the Jawads did not. Despite now living in a safer situation, the family is left with many concerns, including that they do not speak English, they cannot drive, and they do not have the education for work. Father Mohammed is having issues with his leg after being hit by bullets back in Afghanistan and Mother Madina also gave birth to a baby girl in the air while fleeing, as well.

On the other hand, families like the Mahrammis can be a symbol of hope for a better life for the Afghan families entering the U.S. in recent months. The Mahrammis arrived in the U.S. from Afghanistan back in 2017 and were met with large expenses, such as hospital bills and the need for a car for employment. They had to grow accustomed to the cultural differences between the two countries- in fact, the differences are so significant that father Hossein proposes an idea for a class about American culture to be offered to refugees. The concept of small talk with strangers – something we all do in our daily lives here in the U.S. – was brand new to this family and many other Afghan refugees.

Hossein describes knowing his children are receiving a great education and not fearing for his wife’s safety when she is outside alone as a great feeling. He appears very optimistic about the family’s future, as well. The Mahrammis now having educational, financial, and other opportunities here that they did not have in Afghanistan can improve their family structure and dynamic, and stories like this one can potentially, in a way, comfort the Afghan families who have not yet gotten on their feet here in the U.S, knowing the good that could possibly be in store for them.

With Afghans still fleeing the country and more than half a million expected to flee Afghanistan by the end of this year, there is no doubt that these families will continue to be greatly impacted in the U.S. and wherever else they may have to flee to because of their need to do so.

 

(By Raven Albert)

(Photo Credit: CNN)

Mourning all that is human, once again, drowned in the sea, once again

“one cannot speak of generations of skulls or spirits except on the condition of language – and the voice, in any case of that which marks the name or takes its place (“Hamlet: That Scull had a tongue in it, and could sing once”).
Jacques Derrida. Specters of Marx

Once again, the year ends with the surface of the Mediterranean concealing thousands of humans lost. According to the International Organization of Migration, 1246 people – women, children, men – drowned in the Mediterranean while trying flee certain death. In certain circles, this number, 1246, is being celebrated as a mark of success. The numbers of dead have declined. Fortress Europe, like Fortress Australia and Fortress USA, is working. This is the mathematics of success in our contemporary world. 2019: 1246 dead: “the fifth straight year of at least 1,000 deaths on the Mediterranean”. 2018: 2299 dead. 2017: 3139 dead. 2016: 5143 dead. 2015: 4054 dead. 2014: 3283 dead.  From 2014 to today, 19,164 souls – women, children, men – thrown into the deep waters of unmourning. No language, no marking of names, no taking of place. No singing. Only the silence of “success”.

According to UNITED, United Against Refugee Deaths, “In the period 1993-2019 more than 36,570 deaths can be put down to border militarisation, asylum laws, detention policies and deportations. Most probably thousands more are never found.” UNITED compiles a list of documented deaths of refugees. The overwhelming majority of the deceased are identified as “N.N.”, “Nomen Nescio: I don’t know the name”. This is success today. Tens of thousands dead; tens of thousands rendered nameless. Tens of thousands languishing, tortured, in confinement in north Africa, especially in Libya

In 2016, the deadliest year ever for migrants trying to reach Europe, the year’s epitaph was simple: “2016: The year the world stopped caring about refugees”. This year, the epitaph is equally simple: “2019: The year refugees were urged to return”. Refugees and asylum seekers were “urged” at the end of a gun, in the festering conditions of camps, by policies of hostility, by enforced freezing, starvation, and other forms of violence. In today’s world, these forms of violence are called urging, invitation.

We have turned the sea into a graveyard. It’s December 31, 2019, and the Person of the Decade is a woman, child, man lying on the bottom of the Mediterranean; we do not know their names, and we do not much care. If we did, they would be alive today.

To “honor” the decade, here is a poem for the refugees who lie in the cemetery that we have made of the Mediterranean and for those who continue to seek shelter, haven, community, work, humanity. See you next year.

Mourning
By Carolyn Forché 

A peacock on an olive branch looks beyond
the grove to the road, beyond the road to the sea,
blank-lit, where a sailboat anchors to a cove.
As it is morning, below deck a man is pouring water into a cup,
listening to the radio-talk of the ships: barges dead
in the calms awaiting port call, pleasure boats whose lights
hours ago went out, fishermen setting their nets for mullet,
as summer tavernas hang octopus to dry on their lines,
whisper smoke into wood ovens, sweep the terraces
clear of night, putting the music out with morning
light, and for the breath of an hour it is possible
to consider the waters of this sea wine-dark, to remember
that there was no word for blue among the ancients,
but there was the whirring sound before the oars
of the great triremes sang out of the seam of world,
through pine-sieved winds silvered by salt flats until
they were light enough to pass for breath from the heavens,
troubled enough to fell ships and darken thought — 
then as now the clouds pass, roosters sleep in their huts,
the sea flattens under glass air, but there is nothing to hold us there:
not the quiet of marble nor the luff of sail, fields of thyme,
a vineyard at harvest, and the sea filled with the bones of those
in flight from wars east and south, our wars, their remains
scavenged on the seafloor and in its caves, belongings now
a flotsam washed to the rocks. Stand here and look
into the distant haze, there where the holy mountain
with its thousand monks wraps itself in shawls of rain,
then look to the west, where the rubber boats tipped
into the tough waves. Rest your eyes there, remembering the words
of Anacreon, himself a refugee of war, who appears
in the writings of Herodotus:
I love and do not love, I am mad and I am not mad.
Like you he thought himself not better,
nor worse than anyone else.

(Photo Credit: Electronic Intifada /Oren Ziv/Active Stills)

Once more, all that is human drowned in the sea

“I had said I wasn’t going to write no more poems like this”

Today was to be about the women in Puerto Rico who changed history, who sparked and sustained a movement against patriarchy, colonialism, injustice, imperialism, racism, misogyny. Today was to be about the women in Puerto Rico who continue to move a nation forward. But 150 women, children, men died – were murdered – off the coast of Libya, and the story that is told cannot stand. The story that is told is so much noise “tragedy”, tragedy, tragedy. Fear: feared drownedfeared deadfeared deadfeared drowned. These reports empty tragedy and fear of all meaning. As activist Helena Maleno has noted, Europe and the United States have militarized the borders into death zones, zones of necropolitics, necrocapitalism, necroborderlands, in which people are killed or abandoned to die. Criminalize all attempts at rescue or support, militarize the spaces between nations, criminalize those who seek rescue or support, fill the waters with sharks, and then, when the refugees and asylum seekers drown, call it a tragedy of monumental proportions. 

And now the surface of the Mediterranean is as it was the week before, as it will be in the weeks ahead, unbrokenand all that is human has drowned in the sea, as we walk in circles, intoning, “Tragedy. Fear. Fear. Tragedy.” The tragedy is in the mirror as is the farce. I had said I wasn’t going to write no more pieces like this … “but the dogs are in the street. The dogs are alive and the terror in our hearts has scarcely diminished.” I had said I wasn’t going to write no more pieces like this. I made a mistake.

Jose Campos Torres
by Gil Scott-Heron

I had said I wasn’t going to write no more poems like this

I had confessed to myself all along, tracer of life, poetry trends

That awareness, consciousness, poems that screamed of pain and the origins of pain and death had blanketed my tablets

And therefore, my friends, brothers, sisters, in-laws, outlaws, and besides — they already knew

But brother Torres, common ancient bloodline brother Torres is dead

I had said I wasn’t going to write no more poems like this

I had said I wasn’t going to write no more words down about people kicking us when we’re down

About racist dogs that attack us and drive us down, drag us down and beat us down

But the dogs are in the street

The dogs are alive and the terror in our hearts has scarcely diminished

It has scarcely brought us the comfort we suspected

The recognition of our terror and the screaming release of that recognition

Has not removed the certainty of that knowledge — how could it

The dogs rabid foaming with the energy of their brutish ignorance

Stride the city streets like robot gunslingers

And spread death as night lamps flash crude reflections from gun butts and police shields

I had said I wasn’t going to write no more poems like this

But the battlefield has oozed away from the stilted debates of semantics

Beyond the questionable flexibility of primal screaming

The reality of our city, jungle streets and their Gestapos

Has become an attack on home, life, family and philosophy, total

It is beyond the question of the advantages of didactic niggerisms

The motherfucking dogs are in the street

In Houston maybe someone said Mexicans were the new niggers

In LA maybe someone said Chicanos were the new niggers

In Frisco maybe someone said Orientals were the new niggers

Maybe in Philadelphia and North Carolina they decided they didn’t need no new niggers

I had said I wasn’t going to write no more poems like this

But dogs are in the street

It’s a turn around world where things are all too quickly turned around

It was turned around so that right looked wrong

It was turned around so that up looked down

It was turned around so that those who marched in the streets with bibles and signs of peace became enemies of the state and risk to national security

So that those who questioned the operations of those in authority on the principles of justice, liberty, and equality became the vanguard of a communist attack

It became so you couldn’t call a spade a motherfucking spade

Brother Torres is dead, the Wilmington Ten are still incarcerated

Ed Davis, Ronald Regan, James Hunt, and Frank Rizzo are still alive

And the dogs are in the motherfucking street

I had said I wasn’t going to write no more poems like this

I made a mistake

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYt2K6vacv0

 

(Photo Credit: Miriadna.com) (Video Credit: YouTube)

Australia is not shocked by the torture of refugee children; Australia is shocked by their survival.

Sajeenthana

Tomorrow, Thursday, May 16, 2019, in Sydney, Australia, for one night only: “COMMUNE presents LIMBOLAND, an exhibition by Sydney artist Lachie Hinton and photojournalist Mridula Amin exposing the stories of refugees and asylum seekers who were detained indefinitely on Nauru.” At the heart of this exhibition, and project, is a Tamil girl from Sri Lanka, named Sajeenthana. At the age of three years old, Sajeenthana “arrived”, was dumped, on the island of Nauru, thanks to Australia. When anyone tried to engage with Sajeenthana, she had a simple, straightforward response: “I want to kill myself”. That’s what Sajeenthana said, and that’s what the other child refugees on Nauru said. Australis is not shocked by the pain, suffering, torture it has inflicted on these children. Australia is only shocked that they survived. Sajeenthana is now eight years old.

In February 2019, Australia emptied Nauru of its child refugee population. Many were sent to the United States. Sajeenthana and her father were rejected. In October 2018, Sajeenthana stopped eating. She spent 10 days in hospital on Nauru. Then she and her father were moved to a Brisbane hospital. From there they were moved to “community detention” in Brisbane. No one knows what will happen next.

What is known is this: Australia forced Sajeenthana to endure a childhood composed of suicide and self-harm. Leaving Nauru is a first step, but Nauru has not left Sajeenthana, nor all the other children who lived there, the ones who witnessed “successful” suicides as well as suicide attempts, who watched so many others cut themselves that it became a “natural” part of life. 

Australia has engaged in a decade and more of unrestrained, indefinite detention of migrant, immigrant, refugee, asylum seeker children. Why do the adjectives matter? Australia’s national policy has been to torture children. The torture of children has become ordinaryroutine, and while some may claim to be shocked, in fact the State has been proud of its routine torture of children and proud of its people, the true Australians, who are NOT shockedNOT SHOCKED, by the routine torture of children. That’s why, even if it looks like the camp on Nauru is closed, there are no plans to close the camps.

So, here is a poem for the children, the ones who were never meant to survive:

Detention Deficit Disorder
by Jane Downing

How do you write a poem about Manus and Nauru
We’ve seen the razor wire footage/ listened to the reports succumbed to Attention Deficit Disorder – look a celebrity died Will a well chosen image connect
Move someone to action (not me)
like poetry in the old days recited in the heat of revolution Does this need a personal anecdote
to give it a punch above lecture/harangue
a poignant quote*
A crisis point to bring into focus the human face
that reveals the inhumanity of our country of the Fair Go turning a willfully blind eye
and blaming the hypocrisy of smiling politicians
Will a reference to Hitler help any (no) 

How could the Germans not have known? It’s not as if we don’t 

History will not be kind
An Apology will be too late
Having written a poem will not have been enough 

* ‘Poetry is about the grief. Politics is about the grievance’. Robert Frost 

 

(Photo Credit: SBS News / Lachie Hinton)

Italy: The cause against disqualification of women, men and children

There is a cause that mirrors the cause of political feminism because it confronts the same principle of disqualification. In Italy, the cause of welcoming with dignity and respect “migrants/refugees” is being vilified by the new extreme right Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini who has engaged in a war against the most vulnerable women, men, and children who are looking for safety. 

The humanist initiative that has taken place in Riace, a small village of Calabria, under the leadership of its mayor Domenico Lucano, in his third term, has been recognized as a model of integration. For this, Lucano became the perfect target for Matteo Salvini, who first had him arrested and placed under house arrest and then deported him away from his villageusing false pretenses of misusing funds and supporting a “business” of immigration.

When Domenico Lucano became mayor in 2004, Riace was on the decline. He had a vision, he imagined an alliance between the local people and the people in need of a place to live. He had plenty of ideas to initiate a different kind of socio-economy that involved community building beyond the usual norms and appearances. His policies revitalized the villagewith the development of a small craft industry with artisanal shops as well as an efficient co-operative waste sorting unit that has been run with migrants for the past 7 years. That was unbearable for the anti-migrant Italian Minister of the Interior. Domenico Lucano proved that a global villagewas possible. His arrest and deportation are part of the global destruction of a sound system of social politics of integration. The goal is to curtail any sort of solidarity, despite that working in cooperation is always more efficient for a more sustainable society. 

Italy has a new policy: close all human size structures and build huge centers in which to park the refugees/migrants. The Italian government wants to reduce the number of refugees admitted under a humanitarian program which reduced the number of refugees by 60 %. Once again, some people coming from the South are not qualified to be alive, and women are the first ones to be isolated and disqualified.

Meanwhile, in the Mediterranean Sea, the Aquarius, the rescue boat from SOS Mediterranéeis now permanently harbored, missing a flag to navigate. Médecins Sans Frontières announced that it stopped its operation with SOS Mediterranée. The Italian government declared a war against the most vulnerable women men children, the refugees trying to escape the hell of Libya, and further ensured that no country would provide them with the all-important flag. Despite petitions and demonstrations, France, Spain and others did not come to the rescue of the rescue ship.

The resultant reality is death in Mediterranean for people who need the most support for having escaped extreme climate conditions, violence, rape, and for having endured slavery-like situations. Not long ago, the infamous international community was shaken by the image of the slave trade in Libya on CNN. Congratulations went to the work of the journalists who uncovered it, expression of moral outrage burst out in all circles. Where did that outrage go? Where is the outcry as Matteo Salvini degrades our fellow human beings using the rhetoric of migration crisis to lie about the reality of the situation. Matteo Salvini knows no limits. Cruelty is now his official policy. 

Last week, the NGO Mission Lifeline accusedFrontexand Eunavforof crimes against humanity and called for the International Criminal Court to investigate the case of 25 migrants drifting without water and food on a dinghy for 11 days, 70 km west of Tripoli, Libya. Nobody moved to rescue them, and the Aquarius was no longer available.   In this time of climate urgency, crossing borders is becoming an impossible task for the people the most affected by the policies and actions of rich countries. The dehumanizing populist extreme rights developing in our world institutionalize the criminalization of migrants. Migration is presented as a source of crisis, even though only 3% of human beingson earth migrate. Who needs migration crisis? The mayor of Riace and many others have demonstrated that there is another way. Why are their initiatives being hampered? 

 

(Photo Credit: Twitter / SOS Méditerranée France)

Helena Maleno Garzón refuses to let all that is human drown in the Mediterranean

Helena Maleno Garzón at a workshop

The year ends with the surface of the Mediterranean concealing thousands of humans lost, sinking into the sea bottom as it reveals the sinking of our own collective humanity. Last year, over 5000 women, children and men drowned in the Mediterranean. The year before close to 4000, and the year before that, a little over 3000. This year, the reported death toll hovers just over 3000. That “success” is largely due to draconian measures that have sent refugees back to slave markets and brutal prisons in Libya and life-in-death in Morocco. Spain has replaced Italy as the preferred port of entry for those seeking a life, be they called migrants, refugees, or asylum seekers. Such is today’s morbid mathematics that over 3000 innocents drowned in one body of water in one year is touted as “success”. This is who we are … or not. Helena Maleno Garzón is a Spanish activist and journalist based in Tangiers. Working with Caminando Fronteras, a human rights group founded in 2002 that monitors and reports on the Spanish – Moroccan borders, Helena Maleno Garzón has spent the last years documenting, working with, rescuing and insisting on the dignity of migrant, refugees and asylum seekers crossing the Mediterranean into Europe. Helena Maleno Garzón refuses to let all that is human drown in the Mediterranean, and for that refusal, she is described as a criminal by both Morocco and Spain.

Two Spanish cities – Ceuta and Mellila – sit on Morocco’s coast. In 2015, Helena Maleno Garzón described the two enclaves as “the most heavily guarded borders in the EU to keep out African migrants.” Two years ago, Helena Maleno Garzón described a scene of mounting violence, excessive and illegal use of force, and preventable tragedies, such as the massacre of 15 African migrants on February 6, 2014, at the El Tarajal beach, in Ceuta. As a Liberian woman refugee explained, “We are subjected to ongoing institutional violence when we reach the border. This can range from denial of access to basic rights, to torture, physical abuse, and even sexual violence. What you see on the Melilla fence is only a fraction of what we suffer in transit.” In the intervening years, that fraction has grown as it has intensified. After 15 years of engagement in the area, Helena Maleno Garzón and her colleagues at Caminando Fronteras have declared that the area is now a war zone.

And so, the Moroccan government, at the behest of the Spanish government, has charged Helena Maleno Garzón with smuggling and human trafficking. The Spanish government tried the same trick a few years ago, but had to withdraw the charges earlier this year. Earlier this week, the Moroccan court postponed Helena Maleno Garzón’s trial until January 10 of next year. In Morocco and in Spain, many are rising to Helena Maleno Garzón’s defense. Across Spanish social media, #DefendiendoAMaleno appears next to #NoEsDelito. The defense of Helena Maleno Garzón rejects the criminalization of assisting others in need.

Helena Maleno Garzón stands trial for asking which is the greater crime, to cross a border, to assist crossing a border or to maintain that border with lethal force?  Spanish policy mirrors European policy, and “what you see on the Melilla fence is only a fraction of what we suffer.” Look into the mirror. Let us move closer to the water’s edge, grasp one another’s hands, encircle the Mediterranean, and speak the names of every child, woman, and man who died in the sea or at the hands of border guards while trying to find haven. Let us do so for the sake of humanity.

 

(Photo Credit: El Pais / Caminando Borders)

We came as refugees

On June 25, 1948, President Harry S. Truman signed into law the Displaced Persons Act of 1948: “This act helped those individuals who were victims of persecution by the Nazi government or who were fleeing persecution, and someone who could not go back to their country because of fear of persecution based on race, religion or political opinions.” Truman was deeply committed to bringing European refugees both into safety and into the United States. The Displaced Persons Commission ran from June 25, 1948 through August 31, 1952. My parents and I left Europe and came to the United States under the Displaced Persons Act. We came as refugees.

Contrary to today’s rhetoric, my parents did not “love America” before coming, and, frankly, I doubt that they ever loved America. They weren’t nationalists, and so didn’t love any country. They loved their family members, who due to the Holocaust numbered six, and they loved their friends. At some point, they might have said they loved justice or democracy or even the working class, but they actively rejected loving any nation-State.

They came, they made a life, they raised a family, they died and are now buried together. I have to say I am glad they did not live to see the day in which a Muslim ban on refugees and immigrants more generally was announced and implemented. While they did not “love America”, they knew State violence and they despised it. They despised those who promulgated it and they despised those engaged in it. They taught their children to recognize State violence and to oppose it. Their children do, as do their grandchildren.

Any restrictive program that targets a particular population is racist and comes from and intensifies an ongoing history of racist State violence. Some in power will try to finesse this. Don’t let them.

We came as refugees, others among us came as other kinds of immigrants. Racist State violence butchered more than 99 percent of my family. That violence started with “poorly implemented orders”, and then it spread and deepened. Were my parents here today, they would be at the airport, chanting, “No hate no fear immigrants are welcome here.”

#StopTheWall #StopTheBan #StopPresidentBannon #NotMyPresident

(Photo Credit: WNYC)