What we have witnessed after the Cutro tragedy on the Calabrian coast is absolutely intolerable. The government, first of all in the person of Interior Minister Piantedosi, is unloading the responsibility for the shipwreck onto the victims. According to him, the blame for the tragedy lies with those who died and the survivors.
This goes beyond just scapegoating, casting the NGOs or immigration itself as a danger to our society, or the “defense of borders.”
This is a total reversal of reality that places the responsibility – even worse, the blame – on those who are forced to experience the choices of governments on their own skin, with tragic consequences.
This is not an isolated event, or a slip of the tongue or words taken out of context. The idea behind this appalling theory that blames the victims is the same one that has been obsessively repeated to us for years: they must stay at home and they must fight against hunger, exploitation or for their freedom there. What we can do is “help them at home.” Except it turns out that this “help” decreases in inverse proportion to the increase in military spending and aid to the regimes that cause refugees.
In this way, the government, and the European Union, shift their responsibility onto others. They are promoting this cynical and intolerable idea that governments, the international community, has no responsibility, can do nothing but prevent people from leaving.
This justifies the absence of any thought given to what it would take for people to turn to states to cross borders legally instead of putting themselves at the mercy of traffickers. The departures from Libya or Turkey, the risks that come with sea travel, are the result of intentional political choices known to everyone, and not of irresponsibility on the part of people fleeing violence and death.
The Crotone tragedy shows that the NGOs have nothing to do with the departures: they have never operated in that area of the sea, yet people keep coming. Every time the xenophobic right-wingers are in government and get their hands on the immigration rules, the traffickers raise their glasses because their business grows.
This is now the established line of the European Union: outsourcing the borders in order to avoid following international laws and conventions, delegating to others the rejections that we can’t do ourselves. Hiding violent and illegal behavior as far away as possible from the eyes of European public opinion and those of court magistrates, entrusting it to the so-called Libyan Coast Guard, Erdogan or Al-Sisi and their police. This is the goal European governments have been pursuing for years, all aligning themselves with the xenophobic right-wingers.
In the hours after the tragedy, we heard that the European Commission is asking member states to redouble their efforts to avoid tragedies like the one in Cutro. Looking closely at what has happened over the past 20 years, the EU’s efforts to prevent deaths at sea have amounted to zero. But that itself is a far too rosy way of looking at it. Because when we move from condolences to concrete intentions, the Commission and the Italian government, in tune with almost all EU governments, are putting forward the same formulas we’ve already seen and heard, which themselves lead to the tragedies: preventing people from leaving and offloading the burden of control – and, if needed, of illegal rejections as well – on the countries of origin and transit.
The time has come to say enough is enough. No more hypocrisy and cynicism. No more choices made in our name that lead to death and suffering. No more fueling racism, inventing enemies to be demonstratively defeated for electoral purposes, all to sustain the careers of politicians who would be nobodies without the profitable “business” of immigration.
We at ARCI – together with the organizations of the Asylum and Immigration Round Table, with the NGOs that conduct search and rescue at sea instead of nation states, with those who for years have been fighting for the right to mobility of those seeking work and those fleeing from wars and persecution – are fighting for a great national mobilization against the state barbarism that the governing right is offering us in these hours, shamelessly, in the face of dozens of dead bodies.
Perhaps we will have to do it in the very same places where the tragedy took place. Perhaps all over Italy. But we will not stand by and watch the havoc and inhumanity that they’re offering as a solution to the massacres that their own laws are causing.
Filippo Miraglia is ARCI national representative for immigration.
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