Lampedusa, Italy, March 17th, 2009: When Maurice Rossel, representing the Red Cross, inspected the Theresienstadt ghetto on June 23rd, 1944 he did not see the appalling persecution of the Jews taking place in the camp because the Nazis had prepared a deceiving welcome for him. Rossel saw flower beds in bloom; kindergartens and schools; theatres and a pavilion for concerts; medical assistance for the women and elderly.
After his visit, which had been announced well in advance, the recreation and health structures were dismantled after the deception had achieved the result Hitler’s assassins had hoped for. A similar inspection took place on March 13th, 2009. Jacques Barrot, the European Commissioner responsible for Justice, Freedom and Security (again with ample warning and arranged with the Italian Interior Minister) carried out an inspection of the Immigration Centre of Lampedusa and the former Loran base - now the new Centre of Identification and Expulsion. The horrors of the ill-treatment of the immigrants, the unjust repatriation of refugees, the violations of human rights were carefully hidden from view. More than 300 immigrants (most of them asylum seekers who had arrived on Lampedusa in recent weeks and were being held in tragic conditions in the old Loran base) had been transferred to temporary holding centres elsewhere, their location still unknown. Mr Barrot, like Rossel, witnessed the staging of a reception centre in full respect of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, a centre carefully prepared for his visit. We ask ourselves whether this is what Mr Barrot really wants to see in order to avoid taking responsibility for lifting the lid off the pot of rancid, stinking stew that European human rights once again risks becoming. Taking responsibility would risk revealing the horrors taking place in Italy and other Member States to the entire EU. Today’s Italy (aided by the inadequacy of these inspections) shows itself to the European Union the way Nazi Germany wanted to appear to the world: “hard, but right” - to use the words of Heinrich Himmler.