For a Euromediterranean brotherhood. Building bridges between who suffers and who can learn to share the pain
To Borderline Sicilia, onlus
The International Alexander Langer Award 2014.
Scientific committee report
In the previous years, the South of Italy, and Sicily especially, had to deal with urgencies (and passiveness) coming from different sectors and areas of the world. On the one hand, tragic events in Africa, Middle East and Asia have caused migratory flows of people looking for a new life escaping from wars, dictatorships, terrorism, famines and paramilitary groups’ attacks. On the other hand, the Italian reception system, stuck in a logic of emergency, has proven to be totally disastrous from the humanitarian point of view and in terms of costs-effectiveness.
Stubbornly, the European Union refuses to modify the Dublin Regulation, according to which refugees are forced to start asylum request procedures in the country of arrival. Furthermore, even despite ongoing tragic events such as the Syrian civil war, the European Union hesitates to activate procedures for the recognition of protection permissions, as it used to do during crisis in Albania, former Yugoslavia, Kosovo and Libya.
One of the necessary and preliminary conditions for any intervention is a systematic survey on the field aimed at raising awareness among public opinion and decision-makers at all levels on what is the real state of the art of the reception process in all its ramifications.
In such a predicament, it is crucial to formulate accurate and detailed analysis of roles and behaviors of the public institutions and of the countless cooperatives and associations that operate in contexts sometimes very different from one another. Some of them turned into bureaucratized structures where maintenance costs exceed by far the resources allocated to help individuals and where workers and users are often treated as nothing more that voiceless and passive objects.
Indeed, what characterizes the most the work of Borderline Sicilia is its ability to monitor and to gain all information needed to conceive adequate policies. And this is the main reason why we decided to award them with the International Alexander Langer Award 2014.
Borderline Sicilia was founded in 2008 by a small group of international activists (the German Political Science researcher Judith Gleitze, two young lawyers from Sicily, Paola Ottaviano, Germana Graceffo and two German film-makers, Roman Herzog and Heike Brunkhorst) as a reaction to a tragic event which proves how ineffective are the ways in which “Fortress Europe” addresses immigration issues in the Mediterranean area: on the 28 October 2007, 17 young Egyptians and Palestinians drowned in the Syracusan sea, close to Vendicari.
Borderline Sicilia’s blog, siciliamigranti, constantly updated and translated into English and German, is a landmark for all those who look for firsthand information about episodes of discrimination and racism against migrants on the Sicilian territory.
The ability to endorse and strengthen initiatives already existent on the territory enables Borderline Sicilia to promote a wide spectrum of activities with a surprisingly light structure. At the moment, Borderline Sicilia’s organic is composed of three operators and three collaborators, all volunteers. The effectiveness of Borderline Sicilia stems from the relations interwoven with institutions and initiatives at the local, national and European level.
Assisted by experts and universities, Borderline Sicilia participated in a transnational ethnographical research on the Europeanization of the right of asylum and immigration in Italy, Cyprus and Spain. This research, together with reports on the state of accommodation facilities in Sicily, offers ground for a serious and open discussion on the controversial relation between rescue and militarization procedures, typical of the operations Frontex and Mare Nostrum.
Borderline Sicilia’s motto “to be present where the others are not” does not indicate just the monitoring activity through the constant presence of operators on the field, which guarantees the collection of firsthand and trustworthy information in opposition to the twisted superficial one given by the majority of media. It also implies the search for interaction with different institutional levels according to the principle of legality.
Indeed, facilitating dialogue among different levels and promoting Italian civil society’s participation in decision-making processes of national and international institutions and organizations is another peculiarity of Borderline Sicilia.
Looking beyond barriers is maybe Borderline Sicilia’s feature Alexander Langer would have loved the most. He used to move from the European Parliament and the international debate to the local dimension, never showing arrogance towards the former or paternalism towards the latter. The 28 June 1995 he held his last speech at the European Parliament in the name of a new Euromediterranean Brotherhood, advocating for the necessity of helping Algerian women looking for shelter.
In that spirit, Borderline Sicilia reacted with legal means to the attack against two Tamil boys by young Palermitans, raising solidarity in the victims’ neighborhood. Similarly, it worked to identify the 17 young people drowned near Syracuse establishing contacts between their families and local population. With this action, victims symbolically regained the right to be member of the human community by being buried with their names and their families physically got a place for remembrance.
The plea for “active memory” practiced by Borderline Sicilia is far from being rhetoric or ritualistic. It aims at promoting knowledge, discussion, change, diffusion of good practices. With the initiative of Syracuse, those young people regained the right to be called by name and not with the formula “unknown refugee”, that unfortunately happens to be used so frequently during mass exodus.
Not least, Borderline Sicilia contributes to build bridges connecting those who suffers with those who can learn to share the pain.
The President of the Scientific Committee, Fabio Levi
The 10.000€ award is sponsored by the Foundation Cassa di Risparmio-Südtiroler Sparkasse of Bolzano/Bozen.