New Humanitarian Corridors an Answer Against the Tragedy in the Mediterranean Sea


Daniele Biella – Vita

The Ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs have signed a memorandum with the Communities of Sant’Egidio, the FCEI and the Waldensian Board. This signing aims is to extend to another thousand people the group of refugees that have already arrived, (especially Syrians from Lebanon) over two years. Low numbers if compared with the drama of one migrant perished at sea every 42 ones travelling. However, humanitarian corridors are «the way to follow tirelessly to avoid people perishing at sea and combined with a tangible project they go beyond distrust and guarantees integration.» the spokesman of Saint Egidio said. Meanwhile, the civil society is increasingly claiming for the revision of the agreement is between Italy and Libya.

Another thousand people will arrive in Italy via humanitarian corridors over the next two years. The news is positive and counterbalances the last tragic events occurred in the Mediterranean Sea, with dozens of fatalities. Currently, we are facing the worst data of ever concerning the number of people leaving and those who perished at sea, in addition to the international tension caused by the controversial behaviour of the Libyan Coast Guard units involved in the rescue. «Syrian people and families will be selected mainly from the Lebanese refugee camps but also from Morocco.» «As for the groups arrived over the past two years, the process will be: on-the-spot visits, direct knowledge on the reporting of associations that are present as the Operazione Colomba della Comunità Papa Giovanni XXIII.» Mr. Roberto Zuccolini, spokesman for the Community of Sant’Egidio said in the wake of the signature at the Ministry of the Interior – also in the presence of the Minister Marco Minniti together with the representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The extension of the humanitarian corridors promoted by the FCEI and the Waldensian Board – comes on top the intervention that has been pursued in Ethiopia, again by the Community of Sant’Egidio together with the Cei (the Italian Bishops’ Conference.) «We are talking about an initiative that works the corridors show that people who arrived in this way pose no risk to us unlike many citizens think. Within a specific project, these people do not risk dying at sea. In addition, from the beginning we know whom we are facing since the authorities check the documents at the country of origin.» Mr. Zuccolini said. Then, once in Italy, «they immediately apply for political asylum and within a few months they can obtain such condition after a much lower average time compared to the two-year wait for those who have landed by boats.»

From the very beginning the migrants who enter Italy via the Humanitarian Corridors start Italian courses. «Integration happens naturally, and once the residents of the place in which the refugee group has been settled, understand the project they feel involved and begin to collaborate, even by providing dwelling. This condition should be emphasized: it is not true that there is only mistrust but also a great deal of solidarity towards those who come from far away. And this occurs practically in every region of Italy, since the actual thousand migrants have been included everywhere, even in San Marino.» Talking about foreign situations, the Italian experience has finally become a model for France to which «have arrived the first 16 people belonging to a 500-arrival project from Lebanon too.» In addition, Humanitarian Corridors are having been analysed by Spain, Belgium and other countries, «But it is important that the whole European Union will be focused, since it is a model that works. The lack of a EU common action is the main problem.» Mr. Zuccolini said. We would need more corridors but also «other legal entry routes, such as immigration for employment reasons – faced an employment need that really exists – and sponsorship actions such as the Canadian model» in which associations or individuals are in charge of carrying out the reception of the migrant entered. It has been noted that bridges work better than walls, which are useless and send a distorted message of reality.» What does it mean? «We are not in a safer condition if we close our doors. On the contrary, by opening, you know whom you are in front of, what are these people problems. And yet, you can manage them and increase the security level. In this way, you will have less shadow areas from which extremisms and radicalisations can arise.» Mr. Zuccolini said.

Border closure is resulting skyrocketing the number of people suffering. If Greek hotspots are overcrowded with long waiting times and harsh conditions and the EU-Turkey agreement is creating dramatic situations from the point of view of human rights, the deaths in the Mediterranean Sea have never been so frequent. Impressive are the facts made available by the Oim (International Organisation for Migration) since a couple of years under the umbrella of the United Nations. 2715 people perished on 113,957 arrivals, and if we add the four bodies brought to Pozzallo on December 7 by the Aquarius ship of the ONG SOS Mediterranée and the baby’s body recovered with 58 survivors by the Sea-Watch, the number reaches 2720 victims on 114,020 arrivals: figures that are humanly unacceptable – a person drowned in every 42 travelling. In 2106, the mortality rate was one in every 91 people.

Meanwhile, the ships of the few NGOs still active since last summer (more for the threats of the Libyan Coast Guard than for the Italian Government Code of Conduct) have now returned to the open sea in which have been patrolling the military vessels of the EU Monitoring Agency for external frontiers, Frontex, and Operation Sophia- Eunavform Med. In particular, there is still concern after three days following the violent attitude of a Libyan unit to migrants who wanted to reach the Sea-Watch ship, as pointed out by Gennaro Giudetti, an Italian volunteer that was on board (that after the shocking appeal interview for asking him to meet Minister Marco Minniti has already received a first response, that is, an invitation to the Chamber of Deputy once completed his mission at sea, also hoping for a subsequent presence in the European Parliament). The event has been documented by Sea-Watch through photos, video and audio records whilst the Libyan Coast Guard, rejecting the allegations and defining Sea-Watch as wolves in sheep’s clothing, has announced imminent media evidence in their favour but these are still to come. All in all, a large part of the civil society is questioning the agreement between Italy and Libya since the Libyan behaviour (in charge of relocating the intercepted boats to Libya, which is not obviously something that the Italian or European vessels can do nor the NGOs’ ones), although for now the Italian government closes at any amendment. «We do not believe either in Sea Watch or in the Libyan Coast Guard, but we do not even have to determine a priori who the bad guys are since there is much to be discussed.» Mario Morcone, the Prefect and Head of Cabinet of the Ministry of Interior, said to Eleonora Camilli, Journalist at Redattore sociale, interviewing him on the events occurred on November 6, 2017.

Among the reactions, the one of Mr. Luigi Manconi, senator of the party PD: « Inward-looking and repressive policies have turned out to be ineffective. We must change direction. In the meantime, we need to go back to the Mare Nostrum project – irresponsibly abandoned – and promote a wide presence of NGOs in the Mediterranean Sea. All the rest – the Italian mission in Libya, agreements with the local governments, border control – come later. Even the lawyer experienced in migration flows Fulvio Vassallo has written an open letter to Mr. Minniti ant it has been gaining consent. Following the letter: «Dear Minister Minniti, we have no more words to express the sorrow and the civil sadness for the tragic end of so many migrants on the Libyan route. Despite the number of departures has decreased, this phenomenon continues to increase in the number of fatalities. Over 40 dead and missing, including children, only in recent days on the route of the central Mediterranean Sea. We believe that the agreements with the Government of Tripoli, with the local Coast Guard and with some militias controlling or were controlling the starting places, have human unacceptable costs, also considering the aims to be pursued. We would like to have a meeting to communicate and share the sorrow, the images and the stories of those who have not managed to live in Italy or who have been helped and landed Italy safe and sound but with indelible signs in body and spirit, for the torture and degrading treatment suffered in Libya. Bilateral agreements or agreements taken at European level cannot violate international law, also transposed in Italy, which guarantees fundamental rights to all persons, from the right to life, regardless their origin and legal status. We hope that at least those who only bring a story to tell could be heard in the name of those who cannot talk anymore and ask for the end of agreements and operational protocols that are killing and hurting thousands of people. Perhaps now, it would be desirable an effective meeting between the Ministry and the civil society (including NGOs) to understand how to face the current difficulties to ensure human rights and safety at sea and in the places from which these boats leave.