Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Boat immigrants

Boat immigrants: Scapegoat in European political discourse?

Thousands of “illegal” immigrants are trying to reach the Western European “heaven” for various reasons.

They are mostly young people capable of confronting the hellish hardship trips through deserts, closed trucks, locked up compartments, open boats crossing in open seas, for many months in desperate human conditions.

Many of these wretched people die in their attempts to flee their country, society, political instability, and famine for the chimeric hope of a better alternative life that fast communication, internet, and satellite cables are dangling in front of their mesmerized eyes.

French President Sarkozy has jumped in the band wagon using the case of immigrants for short-term political gains and never minding if the constitution of Republic of France is trampled “All citizens are equal before the laws“:

Sarkozy is ready to remove French citizenship to any French immigrants (of non-French parents) if his judiciary record is not satisfactory.  Moslems are particularly targeted: The minister of the interior focused on polygamy and the custom of removing female clitoris.

Most dailies in the US, Germany, Spain, the European Union agency for human rights, and African States of former French colonies have been lambasting France policies as anathema to the concept of Republics: “How are we to be able to discriminate among, citizen, legal immigrant, and “illegal” immigrants if nationality is no longer a stable right?”

Sarkozy is targeting also the European minority of Rom (gypsy or Tzigane) fleeing Romania and Bulgaria to France; many of their camps have been dismantled. It is to be noted that Sarkozy is an immigrant, his parents are immigrants, and his new wife is Italian.

Every year, around 700 new boat immigrants land ashore the tiny island of Malta (part of the EU) coming mostly from Libya.  Their prime objective is to reaching a Western Europe State such as Italy, Spain, or France; but these States don’t want of them and Malta has to arrange to keep them for one year is various types of refugee camps.

Immigrants from eastern Africa States (such as Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya…) enjoy easier and lenient standards to obtaining “humanitarian” immigrant status: they get work permit for one year and are displaced to “free” camps where they can get out and seek work. They are allocated a stipend of about $150 per month with restrictions:

First, you fail to return to assigned camp three times in a week and the stipend is cancelled;

Second, you fail to show up on roll call and your allowance is reduced by $40;

Third, you get a steady job but if you are fired later on then, your stipend is no longer valid.

Thus, you better not take that change of finding a steady job.  Anyway, individual and small entrepreneur in Malta prefer to hire” immigrants with no work permit” in order to scalp them and not pay them for work done.

Open boat immigrants from western Africa States (such as Mauritania, Tchad, Mali, Ghana, Burkina Fasso, Niger..) have hard time obtaining the humanitarian status and are forced to live in supervised camps.

Citizens of Malta feel that the boat immigrants are time bombs to their internal security if Europe insists on closing its doors.

The famished and desperate immigrants have a certain level of containing their rage and violent activities and mafia type commerce might spread in the tiny island. (To be continued)

Joe Sacco, US journalist from Portland and originally from the small island of Malta, investigated the catastrophic phenomenon of boat immigrants landing in various part of Europe.  Sacco focused and interviewed those hapless immigrants who landed on Malta in the summer of 2009.  Joe published his comic strip of 48 pages in Virginia Quarterly Review.  The French weekly “Courrier International” is publishing the strips in series. I am reviewing the three series so far published.

There are estimates that 10,000 African people died so far undertaking these perilous crossings by desert and open seas.  Most of these hapless immigrants were eventually returned to their “Homelands” that they fled from for serious reasons.  What can “advanced nations” do with this flux of poor and “colored” people?

Italian and French fishing boats criss-cross the Mediterranean Sea to capture tuna and deliver them to farms in Malta.  After processing, the tuna is delivered to Japan.  These fishing boats are wondering why tiny open boats carrying immigrants want to land in Malta.  Occasionally, they offer the immigrants food and water.  The immigrants usually ask the route to Sicily:  They are not anxious to land in close by tiny Malta; crowded with 400,000 citizens.  The fishermen reason as follow: If they are from Somalia then, it is the responsibility of the ex-colonial power of Italy. The same reasoning goes to French, Belgium, and England colonies.

Once, fishing boats from Malta witnessed immigrants hanging to their fishing nets but they refused them to board.  The immigrants had to wait for an Italian navy to rescue them.  Malta had opened a center in 2001 with capacity to accommodate 80 clandestine immigrants.  The next year, Malta had to deal with 1,600 immigrants.  In 2008, over 3,500 immigrants landed by open boats.  First, the immigrants are processed for 18 months in special centers and then, they are transfered to open centers close to samll communities where they can mingle with people from Malta communities.

Sacco recounts the adventure of an Eritrean citizen (representative of the thousands of desert and open sea immigrants).  The hero is called John.   In 2001, many Eritrean students refused to serve summer forced labor.  Consequently, 2000 students were sent to prisons in region where temperature reach 44 degrees celsius.  They were left in open air without food for 4 days. After prison term, the students were to serve military service and forced labor.  In 2002, Malta returned 200 Eritreans; back home the immigrants were incarcerated, tortured, and many died from harsh treatments.

John was one Eritrean who managed to cross to the Sudan border and ran the entire night before reaching the UNO refugee camp at Kassala.  Eritrean forces made frequent incursions in that camp; thus, John decided to leave the camp fast heading to Khartoum (Capital of Sudan).  First, John had to leave his ID in the camp so that the UN make sure that he will return.  John had no intention to return.  His family sent him some money knowing that John is better off not to return to Eritrea.

John paid $200 to Sudanese passers.  One hundred immigrants from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan were loaded in just three land cruisers.  The trip in the desert lasted three days.  Each immigrant caughed up another $300 to be taken care by Libyan passers.

The Libyan passers loaded the 100 immigrants in three land cruisers and deposed them in an oasis in the Sahara.  They returned immediately to pick up another group of immigrants in order to cut off on competitive passers.  The next morning, Sudanese “Resistance” militias showed up and collected ransoms.

Twelve days later, as supplies were dwindling, the Libyan passers came back with fresh cargo of another 100 immigrants.  Faced with revolt, the Libyan passers agreed to push forward for another two days of travel in exchange of an additional $50 each immigrant.

They were dropped in the neighborhood of the city of Benghazi (Libya).  A slave merchant bought the cargo of immigrants and received another $20 from each immigrant to facilitate their “transfer”.  The next passers were Ethiopians who got another $200 from each one and packed them in a tomato lorry; they crossed one thousand kilometers in a closed lorry before they reached the Capital Tripoli.  The kids demanded money from the immigrants lest their knives do serious damages.

A Ethiopian slave trafficker lodged them in an apartment.  The police raided the place within two days and relocated the immigrants in the concentration camp of Koufra.  Those who managed to escape police roundups or foresaw the coming calamity were whisked in boats in open seas.  The first boat capsized and passengers were drowned.  The second group took chances and boarded another open boat.  They elected a Captain from Ghana who claimed to have some expertise in the matter.  Instead of 8 hours to reach Malta, the boat needed over two days to land on a beach.  They waited for the Malta police to arrive and start the “processing procedures”.

I have many questions but I might focus on just two:

First, if an immigrant manages to collect a few thousand dollars from family members to undertake a harrowing adventure to greener pastures then, with a little imagination he could land in the US with far more comfortable means of transportation (merchant ships for example) and then get lost in a metropolis.  Police never ventures in dangerous quarters: They don’t pay their salaries.  Maybe the immigrants prefers Europe and avoid American “reserved” quarters.

Second, how immigrants manage to hide their money?  Would it not be easier for bandits to lighten up the immigrants of all their savings and then distribute the razzia among the various passer groups in cohort with them?




January 2023

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