Over the past weekend (31 January – 2 February), a large number of North African and European associations, movements and networks concerned with migrants’ issues met on the Italian island of Lampedusa. The aim was to put together a charter stating the rights of migrants and, in the long-term, to change European policies about migration.
The island was chosen for the meeting after the refugee tragedies of October 2013, underlining the Charter’s new ideas and the political decision to engage actively with the island’s population. Astonishingly, the people of Lampedusa have been left for years by European and Italian institutions to deal with the migrants’ struggles and tragedies alone.
The Italian organization Melting Pot called for the meeting, recalling the 20,000 deaths in the Mediterranean over the past 20 years, the growing budget earmarked by the European Union for the militarization of its borders, and how this affects both European citizens and migrants from beyond Europe so negatively.
The citizens of Lampedusa and their mayor, Giusi Nicolini, opened the proceedings by explaining daily life on the island. Over the rest of the weekend, members of all the different associations contributed to discussions leading to the collective writing of the Charter. The final day was dedicated to the creation of a stronger network throughout the association, both in North Africa and Europe, and to the coordination of future European mobilization and actions.
The Charter seeks to establish a set of rights and liberties and criticizes the capitalist economic and social system heavily with its consequences, large and small: the militarization of the Mediterranean, the creation and the growing number of detention centers, the expulsion system, and the division between European and non-European people.