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IMMIGRATION

Italy accepts some migrants from rescue boat as tensions rise

Italy readied Sunday to allow vulnerable migrants off a second charity rescue vessel in Sicily, but sources close to firebrand minister Matteo Salvini warned those not eligible to remain would be forced back into international waters.

The SOS Humanity 1 rescue ship seen off sicily
The SOS Humanity 1 rescue ship run by the German organisation SOS Humanitarian is seen at sea off the shores of Sicily on Saturday, November 5, 2022. Italy has let minors and sick people off in Catania  vessel Sunday but refused to let 35 male adult migrants off. (AP Photo/Salvatore Cavalli) 

Minors and the sick were let off the German-flagged Humanity 1 in the early hours at the port of Catania, but 35 adult male migrants were refused permission to set foot on Italian soil, charity SOS Humanity said.

A total of 144 people disembarked.

Fellow humanitarian vessel Geo Barents, run by Doctors Without Borders’ and sailing under a Norwegian flag, said it too has been summoned so authorities could “evaluate vulnerable cases” among the 572 rescued people on board.

Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi earlier said those who do not “qualify” would have to “leave territorial waters”, after refusing requests by four charity vessels for a safe port.

The Geo Barents, Ocean Viking and Rise Above are still carrying 900 migrants between them.

Italy’s new far-right government, which was sworn in last month, has vowed to crack down on boat migrants attempting the perilous crossing from North Africa to Europe.

Over 87,000 people have landed in Italy so far this year, according to the interior ministry — though only 14 percent of those were rescued at sea and brought to safety by charity vessels.

Sources close to far-right transport minister Matteo Salvini, who controls the ports, said Sunday the Geo Barents was only being allowed in temporarily.

“Those who remain on the vessel will be provided with the assistance necessary to leave territorial waters,” the sources said.

‘Extremely depressed’

The 35 migrants refused permission to leave the Humanity 1 were “extremely depressed”, SOS Humanity’s press officer Petra Krischok told AFP.

It was not clear whether the ship would be ordered to leave.

“For now, we stay here and wait,” she said.

The leader of the main opposition party, Democratic Party chief Enrico Letta, accused the government on Twitter of breaking international law.

Piantedosi should explain his actions to parliament, the party said.

Member of parliament Aboubakar Soumahoro, present as those chosen from the Humanity 1 were disembarked, slammed the “selection of shipwrecked migrants”.

He said far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s government was treating “the worn-out bodies of shipwrecked people, already exhausted by cold, fatigue, trauma and torture… as objects”.

“If the remaining castaways are rejected… we will challenge this decision in all appropriate institutions,” he said on Twitter.

‘No responsibility’

Piantedosi said Saturday those migrants not allowed to disembark would have to be “taken care of by the flag state” — a reference to the national flags under which the vessels sail.

The Humanity 1 and Mission Lifeline charity’s Rise Above sail under the German flag.

The Geo Barents and SOS Mediterranee’s Ocean Viking are registered in Norway.

The Norwegian foreign ministry said Thursday it bore “no responsibility” for those rescued by private Norwegian-flagged ships in the Mediterranean.

Germany insisted in a diplomatic “note” to Italy that the charities were “making an important contribution to saving human lives” and asked Rome “to help them as soon as possible”.

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POLITICS

Berlin says goodbye to part of Germany’s colonial past

Berlin on Friday stripped a street and a square of German colonialists' names and dedicated them to African resistance figures, as the country looks to reckon with historical guilt beyond World War II atrocities.

Berlin says goodbye to part of Germany's colonial past

“For far too long in Germany we have minimised our colonial past, understated colonial injustices and the crimes committed,” said Stefanie Remlinger, the Green leader of Berlin’s central borough of Mitte.

During the renaming ceremony in the middle of the capital’s “African Quarter”, Remlinger called on participants to “look not just to the past, but the future, as well”, and to improve the teaching of colonialism in schools.

Built in the early 20th century, before World War I, when Germany presided over a sizeable colonial empire, Berlin’s “African Quarter” has stood as a symbol of the failure to look closer at colonial injustices.

‘Symbol’

After years of protest from various campaign groups, “Nachtigalplatz” (Nachtigal Square) was renamed “Manga-Bell-Platz”.

The explorer Gustav Nachtigal, who lent his name to the square, played a key role in the 19th century in the creation of German colonies in west Africa – Togo and Cameroon – and Namibia, which was known as German South West Africa.

His name has been replaced by that of Emily and Rudolf Douala Manga Bell, the heads of the royal family of the Douala people from Cameroon.

Leader of the resistance against the expulsion of the Douala people from their ancestral home, Rudolf was executed in 1914.

“The inauguration of this square… rehabilitates him 108 years after his execution in Douala,” said Victor Ndocki, Cameroon’s ambassador to Germany.

The royal couple’s descendant, the Douala king Jean-Yves Eboumbou Douala Manga Bell, who came from Cameroon for the occasion, told AFP the new name was an “extraordinarily important symbol of recognition”.

Princess Maryline Douala Manga Bell, Rudolf’s great-granddaughter, who also travelled to Berlin, said the move could alert “young Germans to what happened before these young people were born”.

A few hundred metres (yards) from the square, “Luederitzstrasse” (Luederitz Street) was renamed after Cornelius Fredericks, a resistance fighter from the Nama people in Namibia, who died in a camp in 1906.

Genocide

A trader from the port city of Bremen, Adolf Luederitz was long celebrated as a “pioneer of colonisation” and the founder of German South West Africa. He is now accused of having deceived the local Nama people by buying their lands for a pittance.

During the ceremony, Namibia’s ambassador to Germany Martin Andjaba said the name change should be “a tool supporting this process leading to reconciliation for the living generation and those to come”.

“Engaging these colonial legacies should not separate us but bring us together,” he said, noting the twinning of the two towns of Luederitz in Germany and Namibia.

In Namibia, Germany was responsible for the massacre of tens of thousands of indigenous Herero and Nama people between 1904 and 1908.

Last year after long negotiations with the Namibian side, Berlin recognized the acts as a “genocide” and pledged to send development aid to support the indigenous groups.

However last month, Namibia asked to begin renegotiations on the terms of the agreement.

Despite Friday’s ceremony, many vestiges of colonialism are still to be found, such as Mohrenstrasse – the street of the Moors – in the centre of the capital.

For 25 years, campaigners from the black community have been lobbying to get rid of the name. Local authorities agreed a change in 2021, but a complaint was lodged against the move and a legal process is under way to determine the street’s fate.

Germany’s vaunted culture of remembrance in atoning for its World War II crimes is frequently cited as exemplary among modern nations.

However, campaigners argue that with its intense focus on the Nazi period and the Holocaust in particular, Germany has neglected to fully reckon with other dark periods of its past.

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