31 March 2023 – At the end of August 2022, a comrade was given an order to leave Catania, the place where he lived, after the police opened an investigation on him for spray painting the walls of the Frontex headquarters. The agency’s building in Catania is the logistical hub for Frontex operations in the Central Mediterranean. The order to leave, or expulsion order, is an administrative measure issued by the Chief of police (in Italian, “Questore”), which has an immediate effect. It was introduced following the abolition of confinement in 1956 and, in practice, it is a modern form of exile. The reason our comrade was issued an order to leave was that, according to the local police, he constitutes a “danger for public order”. In a large file, the police reported very “dangerous” situations in which our comrade was involved, such as his participation in social movements and groups supporting people on the move and freedom of movement and, crucially, for taping (!) some Abolish Frontex flyers around the city. Of course, he was never investigated for the latter “offense”, but this currently constitutes the biggest evidence to criminalise him and our ideas.
Two Italian administrative Tribunals have already rejected the appeal against this draconian and repressive administrative measure. This February, they confirmed that our comrade is required to remain in exile, physically removed from our struggles. He has not been charged of anything, as his position is still under investigation, but he has been labeled as a “danger for public order”. A sloppy attempt to demonize those who struggle against borders at the South of Fortress Europe.
We continued to stand our ground, as Catania is an important operational centre for the EU’s deadly border regime in Sicily, and a point of arrival for many people who embark on the Central Mediterranean route. Catania is a port city, and the location for many of the key conflicts that have taken place over the last years such as the Diciotti case in 2018, when the former Minister of Interior Salvini prevented an Italian Coast Guard ship from disembarking more than 100 people, forcing them to remain onboard for ten days; and, more recently, the case of NGO ship Humanity 1, when the new Minister of Interior Piantedosi (an ally of Salvini) blocked the disembarkation of the people onboard for several days and called those who he considered not worthy of disembarking “residual cargo”. Over the last years, we witnessed the disembarkation of several “quarantine ships” at Catania’s docks, where people on the move were confined after rescue throughout the first two years of the COVID pandemic, and we supported the disembarked people and other migrant communities living in this city against police violence and profiling.
Catania is connected to the two Sicily’s two detention and deportation centres (in Caltanissetta and Trapani) and to the Palermo airport, which is the place of departure for all the direct deportation flights towards Tunisia. And Catania hosts one of the main actors of this arbitratry and necropolitical management of the Sicilian border, as Frontex’s headquarters is located in the city centre, in a public building, hidden from view.
In Italy, Frontex not only patrols the Central Mediterranean with drones, airplanes, boats and guards, but it is also actively involved in the categorisation processes selecting those who are deemed worthy of asking for protection and those that should be deported; Frontex also directly finances deportations. As of today, the Agency is responsible for the death of thousands of people in the Central Mediterranean, as well as for the detention of thousands more people that end up in Italian “pre-removal” deportation centres.
And yet, the building does not even host a plaque or a sign to make itself visible to the citizens of Catania. It rather preferred to install a ridiculous amount of cameras surveilling the building from every angle. The building looks like an impenetrable fortress, similar to what European institutions would like the Mediterranean to be.
Of course, the Frontex shares responsibility for its operations with European institutions, the Italian government and, most importantly, with the Italian police, which is responsible for everything related to immigration in Italy. It comes as no surprise then that public criticism to Frontex is taken so badly by police forces in the city. But that’s not all.
Sicily has historically been a cultural crossroads. The island is closer to Tunisian coasts than to Northern Italy, movements between one side of the Mediterranean and the other are an integral part of the island’s history and culture. The Schengen process, the reinforcement of the external borders and the growing “fascistisation” of Italy are trying to severe these important links between people. Migrant communities and their efforts to build solidarity are increasingly exposed to racialisation, illegalisation, and criminalisation from Italian institutions and police forces. Against this, over the years, we worked all together to build solidarity structures and to bring together old and new locals with activists from different parts of the world. Our comrade is part of several groups in Catania thatchallenge the violence of the border regime of the police state to build alternative communities of resistance. In the city of Catania, we have built shared self-organised communal spaces: an infopoint and a dormitory that for more than a year has hosted people in need of support; open afterschool activities for kids; a socio-legal help desk; a kitchen collective; we had community assemblies, lunches, football games with communities from other cities. We were connected with other places and struggles against the violence of borders and capitalism.
In Catania and in many other places Italy, the police is trying to criminalise experiences that directly challenge the material and symbolic existence of borders and racial violence and that offer alternative forms of existence and self-defense. The choice to rely more and more on administrative measures to criminalise social struggles, as well as racialised people on the move, reminds us of past police states, where the life of people was exposed to the arbitrary decisions of brutal authoritarian forces.
We are neither scared nor intimidated by it. However, we have to bare the results of repression: the economic burden of legal costs. And this happens in an impoverished context like Sicily, where money flows only into touristic and neo-colonial military and energetic mega-projects (in the context of the current war in Ukraine, Sicily is once again one of the hubs for coordinating NATO presence in the Mediterranean and beyond. For this reason, we ask for your support in this struggle against borders. If you or your group want to organise a solidarity benefit for our comrade to sustain legal costs, feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or if you want to contribute directly, our IBAN is IT09G0501804600000017166307, the name is: Arci Melquiades APS, and the cause is: sostegno alle spese legali
In solidarity, love and rage,
anti-racists from Catania
Let’s erase Frontex from history!