Move or die. Migratory Routes from Sub-Saharan Countries to Europe

August 20, 2015

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The report Move or die. Migratory Routes from Sub-Saharan Countries to Europe summarises the information and testimonies collected by IFHHRO member Medici per i Diritti Umani (Doctors for Human Rights – MEDU) during the first six months of activities of the project ‘ON TO: Stopping the torture of refugees from Sub-Saharan countries along the migratory route to Northern Africa’.

This project is taking place in the Special Reception Centres for asylum seekers in Ragusa Province and in the Reception Centre for Asylum Seekers of Mineo, in Catania Province. Moreover, it reports the data and evidence gathered in 11 months of activities in informal settlements in Rome: squats, shanty towns, railway stations.

This report focuses in particular on the knowledge gained about migration routes, smuggling and trafficking on the way to Northern Africa and on the kind of violence and tortures migrants suffer during this long journey. The testimonies collected inside the reception centres in Sicily confirm that the business of migration across the Sahara Desert, Libya and the Mediterranean Sea appears to be increasingly a multiform network run by a combination of highly organized smugglers and non professional individuals or groups acting alone. The report also provides an overview of the psychological and physical consequences of the trauma experienced by migrants in their country of origin or en-route.

Forms of torture and inhuman treatment

According to the testimonies collected in Sicily and in Rome, the most  common forms of torture and cruel and inhuman treatment were:

  • beatings and other forms of blunt trauma;
  • deprivation of water and food;
  • beatings of the feet (Falaka);
  • suspension and stress positions (handcuffing, standing up for long periods etc);
  • threats of harm and death to migrants or their families;
  • sexual or religious offences and other forms of degrading treatment;
  • deprivation of medical treatment when needed;
  • bearing witness to torture and cruel treatment.

The violence occurred particularly in Libya.From the analysis of individual stories it’s clear that the traditional dichotomy between refugees and economic migrants proves to be more an abstract concept than a tool able to adequately understand such a complex reality. It’s undeniable for example that asylum seekers from West Africa may migrate in search of a better life but at the same time a large part of them –the same as many Eritreans who are escaping a brutal dictatorship – are escaping from a multitude of unbearable circumstances which pose a threat to their lives. Regardless of country of origin, many of them must therefore undoubtedly be considered as forced migrants. The reception systems in Italy and Europe need to take into account the many vulnerabilities of asylum seekers who experienced this journey, as these factors remain upon their arrival.

Access the report summary

Access the data summary table