Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Camp of the Saints: Playing Catch-Up

Camp of the Saints: The Cultural Enrichment Thermometer

It’s been a couple of weeks since our most recent “Camp of the Saints” report. The atrocities in Norway and the media furor that has engulfed us ever since were not the only reason for the lull — the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean died down during the last two weeks of July. It was as if the culture-enrichers in North Africa decided to take a summer holiday like everyone else.

During the last few days the migration news stories have picked up again, but not to their earlier levels. It’s too early to say for certain, but it may be that the stalemate in Libya and the relative stability in Tunisia have reduced the political and economic pressures driving people into the boats.

There have been 645 new arrivals since our last report, bringing the total number of arrivals in Italy since January to somewhat over 49,000. This was not enough to justify updating the Cultural Enrichment Thermometer, which stands at the same level that you saw in mid-July.

One of the recent arrivals in Lampedusa was a boat that contained twenty-five corpses along with more than two hundred living refugees. At first the authorities believed the victims died of natural causes:

Twenty-Five Corpses Found Aboard Migrant Boat

Lampedusa, 1 Aug. (AKI) — Twenty-five bodies have been discovered by Italy’s coast guard aboard a boat transporting migrants to the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa near Tunisia.

The bodies, all belonging to males from sub-Saharan African, were found late Sunday when the coast guard inspected the vessel that set sail from Libya carrying 271 people, including 6 women and 21 children.

A doctor belonging to the team that examined the bodies said they most likely died from asphyxiation from gas coming from the boat’s motor.

“They were dead for at least 48 hours,” the doctor told Adnkronos in an interview. “The heat and the place they were packed together accelerated the bodies’ decomposition,” according to the doctor, Pietro Bartolo.

Autopsies, however, revealed evidence of foul play:
Italy: Bodies of Dead Migrants ‘Show Signs of Murder’

Agrigento, 3 Aug. (AKI) — Two would-be migrants found dead on a boat near Italy were probably beaten to death, according to the results of autopsies conducted on the bodies of 25 men found in the vessel’s hold.

Police initially believed that all the victims found late Sunday died from asphyxiation from gas coming from the boat’s motor.

“If the truth proves to be what was shown by the autopsy we will look into the possibility of murder,” said Agrigento Renato Di Natale, who is the head prosecutor in the Sicilian city of Agrigento where autopsies were conducted.

Di Natale, whose office is heading up the investigation, in an interview with Adnkronos on Wednesday said injuries were found on the two bodies in question that could have been fatal.

The twenty-five bodies were discovered by Italy’s coast guard aboard a boat transporting migrants to the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa near Tunisia.

The bodies all belonged to males from sub-Saharan Africa. The boat was carrying 271 people, including 6 women and 21 children.

Police on Monday identified who they believe are the five migrant smugglers who operated the boat that set sail from Libya.

Italy has so many culture-enrichers in holding camps and detention centers that it is not always possible to prevent trouble. A recent incident in one of the camps injured both police and rioters. The earliest reports listed thirty-five casualties:

Thirty-Five Injured When Migrant Protest Turns Into Riot

Bari, 1 Aug. (AKI) — Around 35 people were injured Monday in southern Italy when people held in a migrant detention camp near the city of Bar staged a protest that turned into a riot.

Some 100 migrants demonstrated to get their passports returned with visas to stay in Italy by blocking a rail line and state road. The protest turned violent when riot police were sent in to break up the demonstration and the migrants pelted them with stones.

Other detainees armed with iron rods set fire to furniture at the camp in the Puglia region.

Twenty police and 15 migrants were injured in the incident.

The following day, however, the number of injuries was reported as almost one hundred, and twenty-eight enrichers were arrested:

98 Injured in Immigrants Protest in Bari, 28 Arrested

(AGI) Bari — At least 98 people were injured or wounded in a protest staged by immigrants at the asylum-seekers centre in Bari. Most of the injuries were caused by stone-throwing when immigrants at the asylum-seekers centre staged a protest yesterday blocking the bypass near Bari’s A-road 16 and the nearby railway network. One person reportedly suffered serious face injuries and tooth loss. Twenty-eight people were arrested accused of bodily harm, coercion and other offences.

In a separate incident in Sicily, a policeman and several migrants were injured when the detainees became enraged at delays in their asylum applications, and staged a riot:

Asylum Seekers Clash With Police Outside Sicily’s Crotone

(AGI) Crotone — A revolt has broke out at migrant holding facilities in Sant’Anna, halfway between Crotone and Isola Capo Rizzuto. The rioting was in protest at what asylum seekers at the centre deemed as being deliberate delays in handling their applications. Several dozen among those staying at the facility pelted police with bottles and stones, then proceeded to set up makeshift barricades in the middle of a main thoroughfare (state motorway 106). Police reinforcements were called in and the clashes endured for hours, with one policeman suffering head wounds and several asylum seekers suffering minor injury.

The asylum issue is a thorny one for Italy. Most of the new arrivals are from Libya, and are more likely to succeed in their attempts to claim asylum than the Tunisians, who are generally considered economic migrants rather than political refugees.

Italy has an agreement with Tunisia allowing the Italians to repatriate illegal arrivals, albeit at a rate of no more than sixty a day. It has no similar agreement with Libya, so that the status of tens of thousands of new arrivals is still up in the air.

Last Saturday AGI reported that sixty-four illegals had been repatriated the previous week:

Italy Repatriates 64 Illegal Immigrants This Week

(AGI) Rome — The Interior Ministry informs of the repatriation of 64 non-EU nationals without permits this week. The repatriations, involving mostly Algerians, Tunisians and Moroccans, were carried out via several flights.

Notice that none of those returned were Libyans. Given the number of arrivals originating in Libya, the Italians have attempted to deal with the problem by passing legislation mandating longer stays in detention, making it more likely that illegal migrants can be deported before they have to be released.

According to AGI:

Italian Senate Approves Illegal Migrant Repatriation Bill

(AGI) Rome — The Italian senate has approved a repatriation bill by a vote of 151 to 129 which now becomes law. The Northern League, PDL and National Cohesion voted for and the PD, IDV and Third Pole (API-FLI) voted against. The law, promoted by Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, provides for the repatriation of illegal migrants, increased time in the Center for Identification and Expulsion from 6 to 18 months and an extension from 5 to 7 days during which time the foreigner must leave Italy on orders from the police commissioner in those cases when detention in the centers is not possible.

Below are several news stories about new arrivals of migrants since the middle of July. The first one was in the Otranto region, and, like most boats of illegals arriving at the heel of the Italian boot, it almost certainly originated in the Balkans or Turkey. In this case, the people smugglers are thought to have set off from Albania:

Immigrants Land in Salento Area

(AGI) Otranto — More immigrants have landed in the Salento Region where security forces have found 14 men and 2 women near Otranto who said they are Kurds. one of the women is heavily pregnant and has now been hospitalized. members of the Navy from the Otranto headquarters alerted security forces seeing that the immigrants’ clothes were wet and they must have just landed. There was no trace of the boat that brought them to the Salento almost certainly from nearby Albania.

Recent arrivals at Lampedusa have caused the holding center there to exceed its capacity:

920 Migrants at Lampedusa Centre After Latest Landings

(AGI) Agrigento — Currently 920 migrants are housed at the identification and expulsion centre of Imbriacola district in Lampedusa. The facility has thus exceeded its nominal capacity.

The last massive arrival occurred last night when 330 refugees including 50 women and 4 children landed on the island on board a fishing vessel. Meanwhile, just 40 refugees left Lampedusa by air. They will be distributed between a number of centres in southern Italy.

More recently, a group of Tunisians showed up at Lampedusa:

Party of 53 Tunisians Land in Lampedusa

(AGI) Palermo — Lampedusa has been party a new wave of migrant landings, hours after a boat landed with 25 dead onboard. The boat arrived carrying 53 people, all of whom declared to be Tunisian nationals. The boat was spotted by the Coast Guard just miles off the coast of the island.

Finally, an unusual story: three boatloads of illegal immigrants attempted to land in Spain. Most of the refugees seem to be Moroccans:

Spain: New Wave of Arrivals, 62 Illegal Immigrants Stopped

(ANSAmed) — Madrid, July 25 — A fresh wave of immigrants has arrived in Spain in recent hours. During the night, rescue workers of Spain’s maritime rescue agency aided a boat with 35 sub-Saharan Africans on board, including several minors, 40 miles south of Roquetas de Mar, in Almeria. The migrants were transferred to Guardia Civil boats and brought to the port of Almeria, said sources in Spain’s maritime rescue agency. And the majority of the 7 North Africans stopped early in the morning 4 miles from Punta Europa in Algeciras, Cadiz, were minors, attempting to arrive to Spain from North Africa on an recreational inflatable boat. Another inflatable craft with 20 Moroccan migrants on board landed at dawn today on the Faro de Trafalgar beach in Los Canos de Meca, in the province of Cadiz. All of the migrants, in good physical conditions, were transferred to temporary detention centres where they will stay while awaiting repatriation.

The rate of traffic across the Med has slowed considerably, especially when compared with March and April. It may well be that the worst of the crisis has passed, and Italy will end up with a much lower number of “Arab Spring” refugees than was originally feared.

Hat tips: C. Cantoni, Insubria.

For previous posts about the Mediterranean refugee crisis, see The Camp of the Saints Archive.