On the 3rd October 2013, a few miles from the island of Lampedusa, 368 women, men and children lost their lives in their attempt to reach Europe. A few days later and in the same waters, the sea swallowed hundreds of people coming from Syria.
These are just some of the thousands of victims of Europe’s frontiers: about twenty thousand in the last twenty-five years. However, despite the crisis, the European Union has not stopped investing billions of euros in the militarization of its borders: in Lampedusa as in Melilla, through the Evros wall or the Frontex patrols, to the heart of the Lybian desert, where the Union has outsourced its control mechanisms.
Yet the frontiers of Europe do not produce only death. The borders – and the laws asserting them – have devastating effects on the lives of those who cross them as well as on the lives of all of us. They generate hierarchies between holders of a European passport and non-European citizens; they affect the mobility of EU citizens; they distinguish between “economic migrants” and “refugees”, they separate the “old” poor and the “new”; they give rise to exploitation and blackmail; they deplete everyone’s rights through the activation of control mechanisms against anyone who tries to reach Europe; they are intertwined with austerity policies and thus reveal the causes of what has now become a chronic and structural global injustice.
All this is happening in the light of a radical depletion of democratic institutions, of a continuous prevaricating use of the law, of a constant betrayal of universality and inalienability, principles on which rights are supposed to be founded.
This is why , from January 31st to February 2nd 2014, dozens of associations, movements, networks and organizations for a total of 300 hundred people from Italian and international poles, have met in Lampedusa to write and approve the Charter of Lampedusa: to contrast this state of affairs by counter-posing another right, one that is written from below. A right to life that prioritizes human beings, their dignity, desires and hopes; a right that nowadays no institution is able to guarantee; a right to be defended, reclaimed and achieved; a right of everyone and for everyone.
A right which stems from the demands of the refugees camped out in squares and streets; from the voices of women and men asking for freedom of movement or freedom to stay where they have chosen to live; from the actions against deportations and push-backs; from the occupations of empty houses while millions of people do not have a shelter; from the struggles for an income, for the dignity of working conditions and against the slavery of gangmasters; from solidarity initiatives and the practices of mutual aid and cooperation; from the forcing of existing juridical mechanisms; from the countering of discrimination and racism. A right arising from the struggles against confinement and detention centres, to give shape and body to new, more extensive and plural rights to citizenship, erasing any of the excluding requirements that in recent decades have characterised this institution.
Dozens of European and North African movements and associations, networks and organisations, have meet in Lampedusa and have started rewriting the history of the Mediterranean space and beyond, starting by subverting the image of Lampedusa, a frontier-island-cum-spectacle.
A constituent pact between many and diverse groups, a collective process, a common space that everyone will be responsible for preserving, each with their own practices and modalities, an opportunity to start understanding together how to construct a geography of change, in order to overcome the borders imposed by Europe and to turn this manifesto into reality.
Read the Charter of Lampedusa in italian here: La Carta di Lampedusa