By Adriana Masotti
”I have always acted for legality and for humanitarian purposes and will continue to do so”: so don Mussie Zerai, the Eritrean priest to whom the Procuratorate of Trapani has recently notified a warrant on charges of ”facilitating illegal immigration ”. Nobel Peace Leader in 2015, Don Zerai – for years engaged in aiding refugees, especially Eritreans – defends the allegations, stating that he has always worked to save human lives.
A. Obviously, it is not pleasant to receive such an accusation. The fact is that we are experiencing paradoxical times, where solidarity is being criminalized; Instead of analyzing the causes that pushed these people to escape; Instead of opening the legal channels to those who are forced to flee, you do not understand why you want to persecute those seeking to stretch your hand to those in need and who are in danger. What we are experiencing is a witch-hunting situation: anyone who somehow manifests some form of solidarity with refugees and migrants is being blamed or criminalized by media campaigns and anything else.
D. – We have been witnesses of very dramatic moments when she received requests for help from people in real danger of wreckage …
A. Yes, what I am challenging today is that I have reported these people in danger of life to the Italian Coast Guard or the Maltese Coast Guard, and also to the NGOs that help people in danger in the Mediterranean, inventing a secret chat or Things like this. I had no secret, I did not belong to any secret chat.
D. – So many people saved in these years in the Mediterranean Sea. But does Eritrea flee yet? What is the situation today?
A. Yes, he still flees. Even if it is much less: the escape routes have become even more dangerous and full of obstacles, so in Europe they get less and less. But just go to Sudan, Ethiopia or Uganda and find thousands and thousands of Eritreans who have fled from your country. Because the situation has not changed: as long as there is an indefinite military service and denial of fundamental rights, it is obvious that young people want to have a different future.
D. – They say ”Let’s help them home”: what do you think? It’s possible?
A. If there was a real will to do so, then it is possible. But up to now this slogan has always been a great gossip. If you want to help the Africans at home, you should leave the natural and human resources to Africa and help them turn that resources into development, rights and democracy. Today, however, many people go to Africa to plunder it: often, in this ”helping them at home” tons of weapons arrive.
D. Clearly, the West is trying to curb and reduce arrivals: the agreements with Libya, etc. What do you think of all these attempts?
A. With these attempts, Europe is truly stained with serious responsibilities, with real crimes against humanity. Because in detention centers in Libya, southern Libya or even in Niger – however in the desert – there are people who are abandoned, who are starving and thirsty, because the escape routes are guarded and therefore traffickers now They move from other areas, which are often mined areas and where water is not easily found: people are at risk of life. In detention centers – just see the confirmations that the United Nations has made these days – there are maltreatment, abuse and torture. This is because the European Union is pushing and delegating to Libya to prevent the arrival at any price, without paying attention to the rights, dignity and life of these people.
D. Don Zerai, what will he do now?
A. I will do what I have always done: to be a voice of those who have no voice; Helping those who are in danger and then reporting to the competent authorities. If that’s what you want me to guess, they’ll do it. I am proud to have contributed to saving as many human lives as possible.
By: Radio Vaticana