Tue, 24/07/2018 - 16:55
Awareness. An expedition of 300 people spent nine days travelling through Italy to get an insight into and to raise awareness about the violation of people’s rights in the country.
Ventimiglia, Palermo, Catania and Riace were the stops for this year’s Abriendo Fronteras expedition, which set off for Italy from the town of Salt on 13 July.
The convoy made its first trip in 2016 to Greece, denouncing the agreement between the EU and Turkey and calling for the dignified reception of refugees. Last year the destination was Melilla, to denounce summary deportations and foreigner internment centres. On this occasion the final destination was Italy. Àlex Blasco, a member of Abriendo Fronteras, explains that the trip served to denounce the racist attitude of the Italian government, as well as raising awareness about human rights violations around Europe’s borders.
Experience in Palermo
During the trip, expedition members met Italian associations also working to protect the most vulnerable collectives in the migration process (children, women, LGBTI people) and which denounce the prejudice towards and criminalisation of these people. In Palermo, they were able to learn about the experiences of workers at the Campo Bello camp, projects to identify people who die at sea, the Legal Clinic for Human Rights at the University of Palermo (CLEDU) and other initiatives.
Demonstrations in Ventimiglia and Catania
The expedition also showed its rejection of migration control policies and the closing down of borders by taking part in the demonstration in Ventimiglia, where over six thousand people called for European residency permits, enabling all people arriving to have freedom of movement. The other big demonstration was in Catania, at the Frontex headquarters, to call for the closure of Europe’s border control agency and the setting up of a permanent rescue mission in the Mediterranean. Activists from the expedition gave a performance reminding people that “no person is illegal”.
Example of Riace
The Calabrian town of Riace, which has set an example in recent years by opening up and providing a home for thousands of people seeking refuge, was the last stop on the trip before heading back. What started out as a coincidence in 1998 with the arrival of a boat carrying people from Kurdistan has now become an example of what is hoped for from Catalan, Spanish and European administrations: cooperation to produce real reception policies, with solid proposals to foster employment and the promotion of the local economy so everyone can lead a dignified life.
From Salt to Riace, stopping off at Ventimiglia, Palermo and Catania along the way, the people taking part in the expedition witnessed the same struggles, the same challenges and shared opportunities. Because of this, one of their calls upon their return to Barcelona was for administrations to create a network of refuge cities with real opportunities for migrants in search of shelter. They want a policy of open doors and welcoming cities, as well as safe and legal passage, pointing to the responsibility of the governments and the civil society in relation to the causes of migration and forced displacement.