Italy: a sequenced hunger strike to protest against illegal pushbacks of people on the move

People on the move in the Balkans (Balkan Insight)

As people on the move in the Balkans continue to endure life-threatening conditions and to experience illegal pushbacks across borders, including the Italian Slovenian one, a local NGO is denouncing the responsibilities that the European Union and Italy have in the situation by carrying out a sequenced hunger strike.

The network for the international rights of solidarity and hospitality, DASI, based in Friuli Venezia Giulia, the Italian region at the border with Slovenia, launched the campaign Tutte le Vite Valgono (every life is valuable). From January 17 to the end of February, 200 people will take part in a 24-hour hunger strike. From all over Italy, town mayors, politicians, NGO members, and religious figures responded to this call.

Starting in summer 2020, people on the move have reported to the Border Violence Monitoring Network numerous cases of beatings, confiscation of personal belongings and illegal deportations by the hands of the police at the borders of Balkan countries. This has made the already often unhygienic living conditions of people on the move in the Balkans even more precarious, especially after the fire in the Bosnian camp of Lipa has left more people sleeping rough.

Map of migration routes in the Balkans in May 2019 (Border Violence Monitoring Network)

In January 2021, despite the cold and the COVID-19 restrictions and health concerns, illegal readmissions have not stopped. They often happen in chain, going for example from Italy through Slovenia, Croazia, and sometimes all the way to Turkey and they represent a violation of the EU law that grants people the right to seek asylum.

Despite the Italian police has claimed no use of violence, the number of pushbacks remains high, says Annalisa Comuzzi, member of DASI. In 2020 alone, around 1300 migrants were readmitted to Slovenia.

But this may change now. On January 18th, the Court of Rome has ruled the readmissions from Italy to Slovenia as illegitimate. The hope it that in the next months concrete political decisions will follow, says Comuzzi. With DASI’s campaign they demand the European Union to stop pushbacks, to relocate people sleeping outside in Bosnia, and to work on long-term solutions. In a region where the top institutions reaffirm the legitimacy of readmissions, Annalisa Comuzzi says that DASI “felt they needed to give their contribution using this modality of non-violent protests”.

Linda Tomasinsig, mayor of Gradisca d’Isonzo, joined the campaign and did the hunger strike on February 2nd. Gradisca d’Isonzo is a town at the border with Slovenia that counts around 6.000 people and one of the biggest asylum seekers centers of the area. “So I did it without thinking twice,” she says. If professionally she felt she had to give this “small contribution”, personally “it’s something we cannot be indifferent to, if there is still any humanity left” Linda Tomasinsig says.

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