The children of the occupation

yeladim-tamarA couple of weeks ago Israeli anti-occupation activist Tamar Fleischman wrote on Facebook about an incident she witnessed at the Israeli Defence Forces Qalandia checkpoint on the West Bank, concerning a six year old Palestinian child, whose head was injured by a metal rod: ‘The father telephoned a friend, a brain injuries specialist, who told him the child had to reach an operation table within an hour if there was any chance of saving his life. It was Friday, after three o’clock, because by the time the occupation machine permitted the child and his mother (not his father) to go through to a Jerusalem hospital, five hours had passed. Perhaps five crucial hours. The child was concussed, his eyes open, his gaze unforced, his arms lifting and falling aimlessly. The father begged the soldiers to let him go with his child, but no, only the mother was permitted to go. And the man stood by his child, who didn’t really see him, and kept touching him, but the child didn’t feel it, speaking to him, but the child didn’t hear him, saying to him: ‘This is daddy, it’s daddy, my child…’ And he kept saying this, bending to touch his son’s body and the bit of his head that wasn’t bandaged, as if saying goodbye, keeping his tears until after the ambulance left, and only then burst out crying’. Continue reading “The children of the occupation”

Lampedusa: Wasted lives and the limits of European ‘hospitality’

lampedusaI don’t suppose that tourists, lured to Lampedusa’s Rabbit Beach, off the southern coast of Italy, voted the world’s best beach by the travel site TripAdvisor as having ‘snow-white beaches, unspoiled nature and the crystal-clear sea filled with life’, spare a thought to the island being the primary European entry point for migrants from Africa, the Middle East and Asia.  At least not until last week’s disaster in which some 300 migrants drowned in a desperate attempt to reach ‘Europe’. Lampedusa, I suggest, epitomises the paradox of European asylum policies at their most acute.

After Lybia and Italy reached a secret agreement in 2004 that obliged Libya to accept African immigrants deported from Italy, there was a mass return of many people from Lampedusa to Libya. This didn’t last and by 2006, African immigrants were paying Lybian people smugglers to help get them to Lampedusa by boat. On arrival, most were transferred by the Italian government to reception centres in mainland Italy. Many were then released because their deportation orders were not enforced. Continue reading “Lampedusa: Wasted lives and the limits of European ‘hospitality’”