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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: L’UE sous-traite sa guerre aux migrants

by Anne Roy

The EU sub-contracts its war against immigrants

Translated Monday 15 June 2009, by Karen Grimwade

Europe is closing its eyes to the serious human rights violations committed in its name against illegal immigrants.

At the beginning of May, the length of time illegal immigrants can be legally detained at Lampedusa expired – shortly prior to the Italian Parliament voting its extension from two to six months – and the centre emptied. But is this a cause for celebration? Since then, Italy has put new measures in place and on May 7th the Italian Navy deported 257 immigrants that it had just rescued at sea back to Tripoli, without even passing by Lampedusa.

The Italian Government congratulated itself on this “historic turning point”. And the NGOs protests went unheeded. “The immigrants were unable to ask for political asylum as they weren’t even allowed into Europe”, denounced Laura Boldrini, the UNHCR’s spokesperson in Italy: Libya is not a signatory to the Geneva Convention on Refugees and has no system in place for receiving political refugees. The Geneva Convention, no, but a contract with Europe, yes. 4,000 kilometres of borders and six neighbours on the African continent… Now a major transit point into Europe, Libya profits hugely from helping Europe protect its borders. In return, Europe pays little attention to what becomes of immigrants in Libyan prisons or in the “offshore” detention camps on Libyan territory.

“At the beginning of 2006, says Claire Rodier [1], President of the Migreurop network, the director of the Italian Intelligence and Security Services described Libya’s detention camps as ‘sickening’, a place where illegal immigrants who have been picked up are thrown ‘like dogs’, ‘designed for 100 people but holding up to 650 with no hygiene whatsoever’”. The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network speaks of “violence, mistreatment, imprisonment, rape and torture”. But the EU will pay any price in the war against immigrants. In February, during a trip to Tripoli, the European Commissioner for External Relations offered 20 million euros to Libya to assist it in better policing its borders. And it is a safe bet that the question will be on the agenda during Colonel Kadhafi’s visit to Rome on June 10th.

The agreements with Libya are merely the outward face of the war against immigrants, of which one front is taking place…in Tunisia. This country is a signatory of several treaties with the EU, France and Italy. Without waiting for the conclusion of new agreements currently being drawn up, the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Franco Frattini, declared in Tunis at the beginning of May that his country was prepared to double the quota for Tunisian workers allowed to legally immigrate to Italy (currently 4,000) in return for “operational cooperation” in the fight against illegal immigration. He also announced a “supplementary aid” of 50 million euros to the Tunisian Government aimed at assisting it with the “resettling of repatriated Tunisians”.

[1“Un arrière-goût bulgare”, (A Bulgarian after-taste), Vacarme No. 41, autumn 2007.

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