First steps towards a safe evacuation from Libya
Summary of the Bologna event | January 26th-27th, 2024
The kick-off event in Bologna for the evacuation of the 221 Human Rights Defenders from Libya saw a large participation of many actors from various contexts: the refugees and migrants movement ‘Refugees in Libya’ and ‘Alliance with Refugees in Libya’, representatives of the Libyan and European civil society, of sea rescue organizations, of ‘From The Sea To The City’, lawyers (ECCHR, ASGI), investigative journalists, the Mayor of Bologna Matteo Lepore, and with the online presence of Oscar candidate director Matteo Garrone. Together we discussed possibilities of evacuation by analyzing and finding common aspects among our projects, modeling new infrastructures for freedom of movement.
It happened to be the first meeting where multiple co-founders from the Refugees in Libya movement and people from the Alliance network came together. The 100 days of protest in front of the UNHCR in Libya 2021 were remembered with a new wave of excitement and strength. As this self organized, nonviolent protest for our human right was and still is a reason for libyan authorities to repress those who took the lead, organized and carried their voices into the world, it needs a special recognition and other ways of evacuation.
To model a new mechanism which fits the needs of the Human Rights Defenders from Libya, is one out of many aims evolving from this meeting.
The Mayor Matteo Lepore called Bologna “the city of refuge” and stressed out that welcoming refugees and asylum seekers is characteristic of his municipality, thus creating a favorable ground for a future commitment and supporting our cause.
All the participants sustained the demands for the immediate evacuation of the 221 Human Rights Defender and the establishment of an active translocal network to support their demands.
The testimonies of activists of Refugees in Libya who survived the tortures and the inhumane conditions in Libya animated the two days of press conference, workshops and public assemblies which saw a constant presence and interaction of almost 100 people.
The presence of the Belaady founder, a Libyan Foundation for Human Rights supporting people on the move, has overturned the stereotypical imagery of a country only represented by the so-called Coast guard, militias or human traffickers. Similarly a documentary film denouncing the conditions of refugees in detention camps, shot by a Libyan activist collective, provided another proof of the other face of Libyan society.
The press conference, held in the morning of 26.01.24 at the Bologna City Hall's Palazzo d'Accursio, was an opportunity to publicly announce the birth of the Alliance with Refugees in Libya network whose headquarters will be in Bologna in the social space of Làbas. The immediate goals of the network are the evacuation of the 221 human rights defenders from Libya, the opening of a hotline providing support to people trapped in Libya, and developing legal strategies to bring to court those responsible for human rights violations.
“Privilege is not a gift, but a debt towards society” with this quote of Pope Francis, David Yambio (RiL) started his speech by reminding that whoever has the voice should use it for the voiceless. A concept strengthened by Naeima Hussein (RiL) who expressed the feeling of becoming for the first time a visible person, that can talk and be heard. With the words "Bolognesi since day one", the Mayor Lepore affirmed Bologna's historic role as a welcoming city, reconfirming its readiness to host the people who will be evacuated from Libya and its full support to the office of Refugees in Libya. Matteo Garrone, director of the movie “Io Capitano”, explained that the goal of his film was to "humanize the numbers" and to tell the story of human beings victims of a criminal system.
Tarik Lamloum (Belaady Association for Human Rights) testified to the conditions of refugees in Libya and the difficult circumstances in which his organization has to operate. Vanessa Guidi (Mediterranea Saving Humans) denounced the politics of criminalization by the EU States against people on the move and the maritime civil rescue organizations active in the Mediterranean. The press conference was moderated by Giulia Sezzi (Ya Basta!) who introduced the goals of the campaign coordinated by ARiL.
Here the video of the full press conference:
Il Resto del Carlino
Radio Città Fujiko
The first workshop, in the afternoon of 26.01.24, was dedicated to setting up and forming the collective responsibility for handling the Hotline with the goal of providing support to refugees and migrants who find themselves in precarious situations in Libya, and to document more systematically the human rights violations which people on the move are facing every day in Libya. Thanks to the commitment of many new activists, the collective work on the hotline will become operational within the next weeks.
The Public Assembly in the evening of 26 Jan 2024, was opened by activists of Refugees in Libya who recounted their horrifying experiences in Libya and their struggles to defend their human rights. These first contributions were followed by a stimulating discussion with inputs and interventions from a wide spectrum of organizations and networks answering the main question of how to evacuate the 221 Human Rights Defenders from Libya.
On Saturday the 27th, four workshops took place, all very well participated. ’Investigations and strategic litigation’ was presented by Lorenzo Pezzani (Liminal, Unibo), with the participation of Lucia Gennari and Adelaide Massimi (ASGI) who presented the Sciabaca&Oruka Project and investigative methods for uncovering and revealing delegated push-back operations (respingimento), Sarita Fratini (JL Project) who explained about her collective's methods of investigation regarding victims of push-backs at sea, and Allison West (ECCHR) who presented their investigative work aimed at holding the European Union and its member States accountable for the illegal refoulements carried out by the so-called Libyan coast guard thanks to Frontex’s cooperation.
In the second workshop ‘From Sea to City’, Laura Colini (From Sea to City network) described the experiences of cooperating with mayors in welcoming and solidarity cities. Other types of humanitarian channels and evacuation models were introduced by Marc Montany (Alliance with Refugees in Libya). Aldo Ciani (Mediterranea Roma) explained the mechanism of operation of the humanitarian corridor organized by Sant'Egidio, and Alice Basiglini (Baobab Experience) listed the requirements necessary in order to be eligible as an association welcoming and supporting people evacuated from Libya. The aim is to find at least 10 municipalities all over Europe, which would join a coalition to evacuate human rights defenders from Libya.
The third workshop, ’Mobile Exhibition’ opened with the screening of a video testimony by one of the detainees from AinZara and Human Rights Defender in Libya, put in the center the story of what kind of repression protesters in Libya face and how they keep on fighting for better treatment. Ideas on how to create a mobile exhibition that tells the story of the unjust and violent treatment and the answer of individuals and Refugees in Libya were discussed. As the idea is to move this exhibition through various cities in order to promote the evacuation campaign,possible places, links and events were discussed.
In the last workshop, ‘Mediterranean Struggles’, the migrants’ situation and refugee’s struggles in other north African countries like Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria were depicted. Luca Ramello (OnBorder Oulx) reported on the outcomes of the mission to Tunisia in late October and denounced the failing of UNHCR Tunisia in assisting refugees and asylum seekers. Pato Crepin, whose wife and daughter died in July 2023 during the mass deportation in the desert between Libya and Tunisia, gave his testimony.
The two days’ event ended with a documentary produced by a Libyan collective of activists (Observatory on Gender in Crisis) and member of the Convention of rights in the Mediterranean, who, despite enormous difficulties, managed to interview undocumented people locked up in Libyan jails, including children and women.
The two days event was followed by an internal debriefing on Sunday morning including the planning of the next steps of the campaign and the concrete actions necessary to achieve the main aims:
Office in Bologna