Just a few words to explain who we are. Despite space limits, we must begin in 2011, with the departure of tens of thousands of young Tunisians towards Italy in the aftermath of the revolution, and with the death and disappearance of many of them along the journey. As a result of the struggles of their families in seeking the truth surrounding their disappearance, contact was made across the Mediterranean, and was consolidated around the condemnation of European Union immigration policies – which were accused of being responsible for deaths in the Mediterranean – and which also lead to demands on the Tunisian state in the struggle to make them take responsibility for those disappearances. The group Europe Zarzis Afrique is the outcome of this political encounter between Italian activists and Tunisian families. Since then, there have been countless meetings and exchanges in light of the Tunisian families’ claims, especially, to take account, on both shores of the Mediterranean, of the lives that have been lost, to reclaim them and to denounce the ways European policies limiting the free passage of persons are producing death and loss. Some of the key struggles undertaken have been: the various petitions directed to both Italy and Tunisia as states guilty of having caused these losses initiated by Tunisian families and the anti-violence feminist collective Venticinqueundici; the political and judicial denunciations of the two countries; the founding in Tunisia of the first association of families of the missing La terre pour tous; actions by the Carovane Migranti group together with La terre pour tous in Italy, France and Tunisia; the meeting with the Central American Caravan of Mothers, and the participation of some of the families, including some from Zarzis, in the World Summit of the Mothers of Disappeared Migrants in Mexico City in November 2018; the struggle for the liberation of the fishermen from Zarzis who in August 2018 were arrested in Italy and unjustly accused of human smuggling, while in fact they have been rescuing people in distress in this stretch of sea for over twenty years; and the mobilisations for dignifying the cemetery of unknown persons, victims of the EU border, in Zarzis.
The informal group (or collective) Europe Zarzis Afrique wishes to carry this work forward. We decided to take the shape of a collective for now as a result of some of us meeting in Zarzis in January 2019 to determine possibilities for political action in the face of the monstrous conditions in which migrants in Libya have been forced into. Our group is made up of some citizens of Zarzis and of various Italian and European cities together with migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa who have escaped from Libya and are now present in the Governorate of Médenine, including in Zarzis. Like the appeal “In light of the condition of migrants in Libya. Attempts at action in a border zone”, the demonstrations planned for early August 2019 are the first phase of a campaign aiming to open up a space for political action from below that makes room for forms of being and resistance in a border zone that is crucial for the European Union’s immigration policies, which are so intimately tied to EU economic and geopolitical interests in Libya. We seek the prospect of a fresh imaginary and even of a fresh narrative form to oppose the Union’s immigration policies and to invent ways of being – including economic production – that are not hampered from the start by the terrifying loop of how migrants are currently received within a scheme that imprisons bodies and lives, as we see in Europe, a scheme that the European Union imposes on other countries via visa regimes and via the externalisation of its borders.
(Federica Sossi, Farouk Ben Lhiba, Monica Scafati, Mohsen Lihidheb, Slaheddine Mcharek, Chamseddine Marzoug, Chamseddine Bourassine, Valentina Zagaria)