Migrants on the western Balkan route | Photo:ARCHIVE/ANSA/UFFICIO STAMPA OXFAM ITALIA
Migrants on the western Balkan route | Photo:ARCHIVE/ANSA/UFFICIO STAMPA OXFAM ITALIA

Italian activists have launched a 'relay' hunger strike against "informal readmissions of migrants carried out by Italy, Slovenia and Croatia" which are considered "chain pushbacks" of foreigners coming from the Balkan route.

Italian activists in the northeastern Italian region of Friuli Venezia Giulia started on January 15 a 'relay' hunger strike to say "no to pushbacks of migrants coming from the Balkan route," organizers said.

The initiative was promoted by the network Diritti accoglienza solidarietà internazionale DASI (hosting rights international solidarity).

Many participants ''from several Italian cities'' have adhered to the hunger strike, organizers said in a statement.

Men and women will take turns to participate in the hunger strike throughout January and February, according to the statement.

The initiative intends to "stigmatize the practice of chain pushbacks, called 'informal readmissions', implemented by Italy, Slovenia and Croatia towards migrants."

"These are illegitimate measures activated by border police, aimed at pushing back to Bosnia men, women and minors who would like humanitarian protection after attempting to cross the Balkans, sometimes for years."

The hunger strike is also being promoted to ask for a "reallocation plan between EU countries for refugees stranded in Bosnia" and to help the country "carry out a progressive program to host and protect refugees that is adequate to its possibilities, excluding the creation of confinement camps, which has been instead favored so far."

Caritas and Salabriniane ask to solve crisis

Meanwhile, Catholic organizations have denounced that the situation in the Balkan country is still difficult, asking Europe to intervene.

"The humanitarian situation for migrants stranded in inhumane conditions at the camp of Lipa, in northwestern Bosnia-Herzegovina, is getting increasingly worse, also due to deteriorating weather conditions," Italy's charity Caritas said on January 15.

The organization highlighted that "the life of some 900 people is at risk," stressing that the migrants live in dire conditions in the camp.

The Italian Caritas has sounded the alarm on the "extreme tragedy" of the situation in Lipa, as well as in several other places along the Balkan route.

"We can't wait any longer," said Father Francesco Soddu, director of Caritas Italiana. "It is absolutely urgent to make all efforts to guarantee dignified and safe housing, strengthening humanitarian assistance in Lipa and in all other refugee camps in Bosnia-Herzegovina."

'Hundreds of migrants are freezing'

Sister Neusa de Fatima Mariano, superior general of the Scalabriniane order, said that ''Europe's immediate intervention is necessary: along with the pandemic, we can't also handle the spread of the disease created by those who turn their backs and close their eyes."

Her congregation has been assisting migrants since its creation in 1895. ''The humanitarian crisis that is gripping Europe is unprecedented and the pandemic is not stopping it'', she went on to say.

"The images of Lipa, where a provisional 'camp' has been created, should arouse consciences, because hundreds of migrants are freezing," she added.

"We must always remember that we are human beings, that we all belong to the same species and that today the priority is not only Covid but the umpteenth cry of pain coming from humanity itself. War, famine, crises impose human mobility. We need to open doors, to welcome and not to be deaf and blind to these cries of pain."


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