Coming from the port of Igoumenitsa, the #overthefortress van lands in Southern Italy to conduct an independent action of inquiry and communication, standing side by side with migrants and local communities, to question the mainstream narrative and its cliches, to make some room for good immigration policies, solidarity and civil engagement.
Departure on 31st October 2016 from Pozzallo (RG): press conference at 11.00 am in the port area
Two months on the road, from Sicily through Calabria, Apulia, Basilicata, Campania and Lazio, with the final stop in Rome, on 22nd December.
During our journey, we will publish multimedia reports, live streams and a collective multimedia reportage.
Join the activists of the Campaign at the stop-overs (see the map)
At the end of October, the #overthefortress van is setting off from Igoumenitsa, heading towards the coast of Apulia. In March, the #overthefortress campaign began its journey in Ancona and Bari to get together in the port city of Idomeni, on the Greece-Macedonia border.
Since March, though, the situation of the refugees stranded in Greece, as a result of the EU-Turkey deal and the almost hermetic closure of the Balkan Route, has dramatically worsened.
Forced to remain within government facilities in miserable conditions, their hopes of reaching another European country and find protection, or to reunite with their families, are now hanging by the thread of a slow and chaotic bureaucratic mechanism.
For the Syrians, the relocation program is a wheel of fortune that, in most cases, doesn’t spin in their favor, while for people coming from other poor or war-torn areas the last shred of hope has already vanished, leaving them with very little choice: to either seek asylum in Greece, and risk being deported back to their country in case of rejection, or to pay a trafficker, and risk being pushed back form the “migrant-hunters” in militarized borders, or being stopped in one of the countries of the Balkan Route.
The situation here has deteriorated so much that, among illegal detentions, compulsory expulsions and an inadequate immigration policy, none of the refugees wishes to stay.
The whole Balkan Route, and Greece in particular - a country we were able to see with our own eyes and through the testimonies we collected in these months, is a massive testing ground for the EU management of migration flows. In fact, an advanced model of militarization and externalization of the EU borders is being implemented in this area, where migrants’ right of mobility is denied and the access to asylum is narrowing more and more. The purpose of this isn’t just to prevent departures, but also to generate a narrative of forced migration in total opposition to the one that last year called the Dublin Regulation in to question, opening breaches in the border fences.
Despite numerous reports of fundamental rights violations and complaints brought before the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights, it is hard to imagine - at least without a strong political initiative from movements across Europe - that things will improve in the near future, that deals such as the one with Turkey will be renegotiated, as the EU itself has offered a similar deal to Afghanistan, and seems willing to sign others with the migrants’ countries of origin.
But if the route to Europe across Turkey seems to be closed, we know far too well that other itineraries may open in the next months, putting people’s lives at higher and higher risk.
The Mediterranean crossing is still the most dangerous itinerary in the world, with more than 4.000 casualties over the past year, due to the current European policy that doesn’t allow migrants to reach the Old Continent in a safe way. Though fewer than in Greece, the arrivals in Italy (about 153.000 people. Source: UNHCR) show that the Mediterranean route is at the moment the only door remained open and, at the same time, that the North African migration flow for economical, environmental and social causes has to be considered “structural” and can no longer be labeled as “exceptional”.
Italy is historically the landing place of the Mediterranean route, but if it used to be, for many people, a mere place of temporary transit (in 2014 out of 63.456 arrivals, only 171.000 applied for asylum in Italy; in 2015 they became 83.970 out of 153.842. Source: Eurostat), it is now a place of forced settlement, for it is no longer possible to cross its northern border.
The EU’s “new” policy that imposes the identification of migrants - even with the use of force through the hotspots located in South Italy - is worsened by the so-called “Alfano Plan” that has triggered the deportation of the people stranded in Ventimiglia and Como, most of whom have been relocated in the hotspot in Taranto.
Moreover, all these people forcibly stuck with the sole possibility of applying for asylum in the country, have undeniably exposed the limits of the precarious Italian immigration system - whose unique rationale is the maximization of profit - and have revealed the lack of services and opportunities for social inclusion and integration into the workforce for the migrants.
This guilty botch job, particularly visible in the sector of "accoglienza straordinaria" [a massive new project to respond to the increased number of asylum applications] of migrants across Italy, is extremely evident in those areas of the country where asylum seekers and migrants in general are exploited as labor hands with no rights, joining to the system of labor exploitation in agriculture, often fueled by large-scale distribution.
At the end of October, the camper van of the solidarity campaign #overthefortress will land in Brindisi and will then travel across the southern regions of Italy for two months. Starting on 31st October from Pozzallo, Sicily, step after step, we will meet and give voice to the social realities that work with migrants and fight with them for their rights, while also monitoring what happens in the different areas, telling the stories of the people that we meet, and getting in touch with the virtuous experiences of migrant reception, too often forgotten or devalued.
That is because in front of emergency measures, violations of human rights, and inhumanity that propagates as a lethal metastasis, we feel the need to get back on the road once again to narrate, denounce and act with those that are not yet accustomed to this present.
Thanks to those who have built with us the map of the travel, giving us the contacts and sharing the information.
Thanks to Gabriele Cipolla for the promo video.
Thanks to Fabian Melber (photo journalist) for the kind concession of the photos.
Thanks to Saverio Serravezza
Accoglienza, Diritto di asilo, Mediterraneo, Migrazioni, Viaggio al sud Italia di #overthefortress (novembre-dicembre 2016)
Basilicata, Calabria, Campania, Italia, Lazio, Puglia, Sicilia