Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Video to shed light on Italian refugee camp (INT)

Category: Interest
Subject: Immigration

25.10.2005 - 09:50 CET By Teresa Küchler

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - A cross-party group of MEPs will broadcast a film on Tuesday (25 October) showing how the Italian refugee camp on the island of Lampedusa was cleared before the arrival of a delegation from the European Parliament.

The film from inside the camp by Italian undercover journalist Mauro Parissone, will be shown at a joint hearing with the socialist, liberal, leftist (GUE) and green MEPs with the banner "The Real Lampedusa: what the Italian government tries to hide from the EU".

A delegation of MEPs visited the camp in September having earlier announced that they intended to gather evidence to confront the Italian authorities with allegations that they are expelling immigrants without having tested their legal status and keeping them in inhumane conditions.

When the MEPs arrived in Lampedusa on 15 September, only 11 people were in the compound. Inhabitants of the island told MEPs that the immigrants had been flown out, most likely to Libya, three days earlier.

However, Mr Parissone, present on Lampedusa well before the MEPs arrived has said he has managed to capture the evacuation of the camp on film.

Inside Lampedusa

He is not the only one to have done some undercover work.

Earlier this month, Italian reporter Fabrizio Gatti from left-leaning magazine "L'Espresso" entered the camp posing as Bilal Ibrahim el Habib, a fake Kurdish refugee.

After a week-long stay in the camp, Mr Gatti, who will be present at the hearing in Strasbourg, reported that the Italian police beat, verbally abused and stole from the immigrants.

Sicilian magistrates have opened a criminal investigation about the reported events on the camp.

But the Italian government maintains that immigrants at the centre were treated humanely and with Italian Justice Minister Roberto Castelli accusing the reporter of inventing his story.

Some Italian MEPs have also been critical of media coverage of the island.

According to Italian daily "La Repubblica", Northern league MEP Mario Borghezio has been reported as saying that the Lampedusa centre is a "five-star hotel" while MEP Stefano Zappala, from the Italian governing party Forza Italia warned against making snap judgements.

He has argued that the European Parliament should take account of the national context of the complex issue of immigration – including humanitarian, social and security aspects.

Lampedusa is a small island located in the middle of the Sicilian Channel, 200 km from Sicily and 120 km from Libya, and geographically a part of Africa; with a population of 5,500.

The island has become an important outpost for people trying to reach Europe via Libya.

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