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Italian report
by Euro Reporter
2014-01-20 12:44:05
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Italy human trafficking case could reveal new details on Lampedusa tragedy

Fresh details of the 11 October Lampedusa tragedy could emerge during the trial of Attour Abdalmemen, the 37-year-old Palestinian human trafficker who is thought to have sailed the migrant boat that sank off the coast of Lampedusa, leaving 270 people dead. The Palestinian had been charged with human trafficking along with Mouhamud Elmi Muhidin – a Somali national who was arrested in connection with the 3 October tragedy that left more than 330 people dead just one mile off the coast of the Italian island. At some point the joint court case was split in two, and the two men are now being tried separately. Six Syrian survivors of the 11 October tragedy are expected to testify against Abdalmemen before a Palermo court this week. It is thought that the case could not only shed new light on the horrific abuse suffered by refugees on the hazardous journey but also on Malta and Italy’s rescue procedure that has raised so many questions.

italy_400A few weeks ago, this paper reported that Malta had at least six options to save the migrants but seemed to have made the wrong choice. A number of Italian Navy, coast guard and Guardia di Finanza vessels, as well as two merchant ships had been in the vicinity of the migrant boat but were not dispatched to help by the Maltese Rescue Coordination Centre. One of the survivors, Syrian medic Mohammad Jammo, had told L’Epresso journalist Fabrizio Gatti that he had made contact with Italy at 11am and warned them that the boat – that was holed by Libyan machinegun fire the night before – was sinking. He had claimed that Italy wasted two hours until it directed him to the Maltese authorities. But for some reason, the Maltese rescue vessels only arrived on the scene after the boat had sunk, taking hundreds of Syrian men, women and children with it to the bottom. The Armed Forces of Malta have always denied wasting time and taking the wrong decisions and have insisted that they have the necessary documentation to substantiate their claims. But the documentation remains unpublished to this day. The AFM has also refused a Freedom of Information request by MaltaToday to publish the documentation.

On its part, the Italian Navy only challenged one detail of Dr Jammo’s testimony – it said that the first distress call was made at 12.26pm and not 11am. But the navy has thus far failed to explain why its ships failed to affect a rescue when they were within an hour’s reach of the migrant boat. So has Malta, despite the former AFM commander’s claims that the P61 offshore patrol boat was close by. Brigadier Martin Xuereb had told this paper that the P61 was some 60 kilometres away from the scene, and not in port. This raises the question of why it took the Maltese vessel almost five hours to reach the disaster area. This paper had also asked whether Italy had wasted time to let the migrant boat enter Maltese SAR waters, so as to shun its responsibilities. So far, all these questions have only been met with a wall of silence. It is not known whether Dr Jammo will testify in front of the Italian court; however the witnesses could shed new light on what happened on 11 October. 


Nun who gave birth in Italy 'unaware of pregnancy'

A nun, who gave birth to a baby boy in the central Italian city of Rieti, said she had no idea she was pregnant, local media report. The 31-year-old was rushed to hospital with abdominal pains, which she thought were stomach cramps. The young mother, who is originally from El Salvador, reportedly named her newborn Francis after the current Pope. The mayor of Rieti, Simone Petrangeli has appealed to the public and media to respect the woman's privacy.

The news has drawn international attention to the small city of 47,700 inhabitants. The nun called the ambulance on Wednesday morning. A few hours later she gave birth to a healthy baby boy. "I did not know I was pregnant. I only felt a stomach pain," she was quoted as saying by the Ansa news agency.

People at the hospital have begun collecting clothes and donations for the mother and her child, Italian media say. The woman belongs to a convent near Rieti, which manages an old people's home. Fellow nuns at the convent said they were "surprised" by the news. Local pastor Don Fabrizio Borrello told journalists that the nun planned to take care of the baby.


Italy MP 'blacks up' for anti-migrant speech

A right-wing Italian politician smeared his face with black greasepaint in parliament, advising Italians to "become a bit darker" if they wanted to take advantage of the country's supposed hand-outs to black immigrants. Northern League MP Gianluca Buonanno protested late on Wednesday that asylum seekers and migrants were given free accommodation and other benefits when white Italians were struggling to survive. He told parliament that too much money was being given to immigrants when Italy did nothing for its own citizens. "At the end of the day, maybe in this country in order to achieve anything we need to be a bit darker.”I say we can all put make-up on and make ourselves a bit darker, and then we can all go around painted black and say we want the same help that non-EU citizens get."

The Northern League has accused Cecile Kyenge, the country's Congo-born minister for integration, of using her post to "favour negritude". Kyenge is Italy's first black politician and has experienced multiple incidents of racism, not least from the Northern League. Its leader Roberto Calderoli compared her to an orang-utan last year. He was later charged with defamation aggravated by racial discrimination. Kyenge has also had bananas thrown at her during public appearances and the political party's official newspaper has started printing her daily agenda, detailing her official appointments.

In response, Nichi Vendola, the head of the left-wing SEL party, tweeted: “Can someone tell the racists that we're in the Third Millennium and are a civilised country, despite them. “The racists think they're in Alabama or Mississippi of a half-century ago or in South Africa during apartheid.” Italy has been criticised for its poor treatment of refugees and asylum seekers by the UN, EU and human rights groups, among others.


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Emanuel Paparella2014-01-20 13:27:53
Levinas had it on target: there is something rotten in the ethical stance of a civilization that ignoring its best emphasized its worst as the Italian xenophobic right wing Italian Lega in league with Berlusconi for a long while certainly likes to do.

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