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20 June 2015 – World Refugee Day: Immigration, reception and SPRAR in the spotlight

On 20th June 2015, coinciding with the World Refugee Day, the Association Embassy of LDA Zavidovici, in cooperation with Amnesty International, “Médicins sans Frontières” and Cavana educational community, organised an event on immigration, raising awareness on reception and SPRAR.


The event took place in Brescia, and saw the participation of some volunteers that shared their experiences and witnesses on this emergent serious problem, affecting Italy and all Europe in these last years.

Mr. Agostino Zanotti, Director of the Association LDA Zavidovici, introduced the event, indicating the first shocking figure: only in the last 5 month, 1.750 desperate people lost their life trying to reach our coasts. And for them who survive the terrible sea journey, another sad obstacle remains: the “European wall”, which counts lot of countries that often want to reject them. His intervention also included a video realised by INTERNAZIONALE, that shows some scenes filmed in the Strait of Sicily and Lampedusa. The video collected the witnesses of physicians and volunteers involved in activities of rescue and assistance to immigrants on the field, stating the dramatic situation and confirming the fact that the Mediterranean is the most dangerous migratory route of the world.

But why should we welcome them? And why they try to escape from their countries? Firstly, we have duty to guarantee the inviolable rights of the individual: in Italian Constitution it’s clearly expressed the right to have a free and dignified existence and the right of asylum seeking. In addiction we always should consider the terrible circumstances that motivate them to get away from their mother lands: conflicts, hunger, poverty and tortures still affect many countries. Amnesty International declare that in 112 countries torture is still admitted by law. The estimate number of refugees in 2014 is 59 millions: the 86% of them have been hosted by the third world countries; only the 14% has been helped by the industrialised ones, and that’s a shame. Refugees mostly come from Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia and Sudan. Italy, despite the fact that it is the first territory in which refugees land, it is only at the 6th position in the list of countries hosting immigrants, preceded by Germany, USA, France, Sweden and Turkey.

The structured receptions provided by the SPRAR programme, from the beginning of 2014 to the end of 2016, are supposed to be 21.000. The programme do not provide just the first assistance, but it also aims to the rehabilitation of refugees’ potentials, in order to give them the hope and the opportunity to start a new life and be protagonists of their renewed life.

Mr. Andrea Ciocca form Bergamo, Italy, works with “Médicins sans frontiers” (MSF) since 2008, operating in particular in Afghanistan, Sudan, Iraq, Ukraine and Lampedusa as last mission. MSF has the role to provide health services and medical care in emergency situations, mostly caused by outbreaks, hunger, conflicts and wars. Andrea tells his story and his experiences, explaining the work that MSF is doing in displaced people’s camps and refugees camps: in particular they are working to reduce malnutrition, to improve vaccination, and they are now focusing also on mental diseases and sexual violence. In Italy, they are acting on health services in camps for refugees, during the first aid on rescue at sea, and on rehabilitation of torture victims. On behalf of MSF, Andrea calls for three urgent needs: the responsibility of Governments to help for rescues, the “demolition of the wall” that Europe is building rejecting to host immigrants, and a more human assistance to ensure the minimal standards of human rights. He also introduced the Campaign #milionidipassi (millions steps) to help refugees.

This intervention was followed by the one from Simone, a volunteer that works for the Italian section of Amnesty International, a movement where volunteer are particularly involved, that acted on this issue with the Campaign SOS Europe. He started with a short introduction to clarify the meaning of different words (often improperly used) such as citizen, foreign, non-EU member state, migrant,  immigrant, displaced person, asylum seeker or refugee. Then he explained in details the different programmes dedicated to the firs aid: “Operazione Mare Nostrum” and “Triton”.

Operazione Mare Nostrum was an Italian solution under the responsibility of the Italian Navy, activated in 2014 to respond to the dramatic situation occurred in 2013, when 500 people lost their life during their sea journey, very close to Italian coasts. The plan included the interception of boats and the rescue at the sea. It lasted one year, 140.000 people were saved for the total cost of 100 million of euros, which means around 700 euros for each human life. Considered too much expensive, the programme was interrupted, and this choice was furthermore justified by the fact that the issue of immigration was not only an Italian problem, but an European matter. Operazione Mare Nostrum was consequently replaced in 2015 by another programme, called Triton, which was really cheaper compared with the first one: it costed 2/3 less. This solution was very appreciated for the protection of the State’s finances, but it caused a lot of deaths more: while in 2014, with Operazione Mare Nostrum, from 1st January to 20th April, we counted 17 victims, in 2015 with Triton, always from 1st January to 20th April the number of victims increased up to 1.700. Considering this data, what is the price that a human life deserves? 

Amnesty International asks to EU to improve the operations in Mediterranean Sea and in Aegean Sea, assure legal migration to reach Europe, ensure the asylum right and stop cooperation and migration with Countries who violate human rights.

Among the interventions, also the witness of Juan, from Uruguay is very important. Juan is a man victim of the law of the state of emergency, used in 1970 in Uruguay to repress political opposition. He became a political prisoner, being arrested in 1971, and he was victim of horrible tortures as well as all 17.000 prisoners. Violence was not only affecting prisoners, but it was threaten all citizens. He survived thanks to music, writing new melodies and trying to play them with his guitar when allowed. He got his freedom after 13 years and half.

Another volunteer working in Cavana educational community shared his experience, talking about the protection of children that reach our country alone, without parents. They typically come from Albania or Kosovo, facing a very hard journey, looking for a better future. Unaccompanied children are protected by the New York Convention of 1989, which provide them with the possibility of having a residency permit until the age of 18. Children can be also adopted by their relatives, if there are some in the same country, they must be financially supported by the Municipality which host them.

The event was a great occasion to better understand rules and dynamics of this urgent matter, listening to the witnesses of people directly involved in operations to save human lives. ALDA has been working for many years with the Association LDA Zavidovici, and we really appreciate the commitment and the dedication to improving solidarity and better life conditions.

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