Speaking of Frontex, Militarization and Universities at a public meeting in Turin (Volere la Luna)

On Saturday, 24th September, 9pm, I will join a critical public festival in Turin, sponsored by ‘Volere la Luna‘.

At the event, I will join a number of activists and colleagues to discuss around the increased role that the militarization industry is having in Turin, the city where I live. I will speak of the relationship between my University, the Polytechnic, and that industry – focusing in particular on the Frontex case, on bordering, and on the relationship between research and the military.

Free entry, in Via Trivero 16 at 9pm. Check the poster below for the full extent of the Festival.

Locandina 2022 def

Update on the Polytechnic – Frontex case

Following the ongoing investigative work of Luca Rondi at Altra Economia (ITAENG) I am writing again – this time not alone, but with my colleague Francesca Governa – to the regents of the Polytechnic to ask for clarity on the Polito – Frontex agreement.

Below it’s the translation of our letter. Note that I am still waiting for a reply to the previous email, dated 18 March 2022.

Previous updates: this, this, and the original post.

Dear Rector, Dear Pro-Rector
Dear Director and Vice-Directors of the Dist
Dear Fellow Representatives of Full Professors in the Academic Senate

L’altra economia published an article (https://altreconomia.it/frontex-polito-ecco-le-prime-mappe-e-la-clausola-sui-diritti-umani-non-vincola-lagenzia/) on 7 June that returns to the issue of the contract between Frontex and the Politecnico di Torino. We learn from the article that the “binding clause” linked to the observance of “respect for human and fundamental rights of persons” by both the “researchers” and the “principal” within the “Frontex OP/403/2020/DT” agreement, decided at the Senate meeting of 14 December 2021, does not involve the Agency. The consortium agreement thus seems to be deficient precisely because of the lack of agreement on the part of an entity – Frontex – that has been repeatedly accused of violating the human and fundamental rights of persons. It seems to us that this lack conflicts with the fundamental contents of the programme manifesto on the ‘Integrity of Research at the Politecnico di Torino’ and the Code of Ethics of our University, as well as disregarding the decision of the Academic Senate.

We believe that it is important for the Politecnico, in compliance with its institutional mandate, its autonomy as a centre of excellence for higher education and research, and as a place of reflection and debate open to the territory and society, to clarify the situation regarding the Consortium agreement by requesting that it also involve the offices of the Frontex Agency.

Please also note that no reply was ever sent to the email sent on 18 March 2022, containing a similar request for clarification.

With best regards

Michele Lancione and Francesca Governa

Joining dock workers in Genova for a public talk and demonstration against the war industries

If you are in Genoa this Thursday 31st March, I will be at a demonstration and public debate with the comrades of the Collettivo Autonomo Lavoratori Portuali thanks to a very kind invitation from them.

The comrades of CALP have been striking for years to stop, among others, the Saudi ships that pass through the port of Genoa to bring weapons to Yemen. Some of them, for their anti-fascism and for their anti-militarism have also been prosecuted, as criminals, by the local judiciary.

I will bring my solidarity, and talk about Fortress Europe, Frontex, armaments and the role of Universities in these industries of death.

 

New proofs of the involvement of Frontex in refugees push-backs – What is Polito doing with the contract?

Thanks to the Spiegel and, in Italy, to Luca Rondi at Altreconomia, we have now even more proofs of how Frontex is engaging in the violent pushback of migrants at EU’s frontiers.

On the basis of their work, I have written again to the Polytechnic of Turin’s Chancellor asking for clarity on our direct involvement with the Agency (back story, here) and, in particular, to the decision of the Polytechnic’s Senate not to rescind our contract for the production of maps to Frontex, but to pursue it simply by inserting a ‘clause’ in the agreement that should bind the Politecnico and #Frontex to respect human rights… (see here).

Turin, 18th March 2022

Dearest Chancellor,

Dearest Pro-Chancellor,

Dear Director and Vice-Directors of DIST, and representatives of Full Professors in the Academic Senate,

I am writing to receive clarification regarding the Frontex affair, on which the Polytechnic Senate expressed its opinion on 14 December 2021. Three months have passed since the resolution that provides for the inclusion of a so-called “binding clause” related to the observance of “respect for human and fundamental rights” both by the “researchers” and the “agency” involved in the agreement “Frontex OP/403/2020/DT”. If possible, I would like to understand a) whether this clause has been included; b) if it has been, how this has happened; c) if it has been, what guarantees and monitoring arrangements for compliance have been put in place.

I know that the last few weeks have seen your people, and our Athenaeum, taking action to offer support to refugees caused by the Russian conflict in Ukraine. However, it is important to emphasise that there can not be first and second-class refugees. The Frontex issue clearly draws attention to other conflicts (Syrian, first and foremost) and other geopolitical realities (such as the Sub-Saharan area) that we cannot ignore – especially when we engage, as DIST and Politecnico, in services with an Agency that has clearly, and repeatedly, violated the “human and fundamental rights of people”.

You will have read about the caos (Spiegel’s word) in which Frontex finds itself following the latest, recent revelations about its modus operandi. In particular, I would like to draw your attention to this new, damning evidence of Frontex’s active involvement in the cover-up of push-back operations in the open sea off the Greek coast.

Beyond personal opinions, and the interpretation that each of us has of the migrant “issue” and of the work of the EU and its agencies, there is at the very least an image problem in associating this Polytechnic with the work of Frontex. The consequences of our involvement with Frontex are something that no ‘clause’ can bind to change. We need to dissociate ourselves firmly, and urgently, with the work of such Agency.

Awaiting your kind reply, I send my best regards.

Michele Lancione

Full Professor of Economic and Political Geography
DIST, Polytechnic and University of Turin
Visiting Professor of Urban Studies, Urban Institute, University of Sheffield
PI, ERC Starting Grant “Inhabiting Radical Housing”.
Editor, The Radical Housing Journal | Corresponding Editor, IJURR

 

The Polytechnic keeps the agreement with Frontex – I will work for another way of doing research

The Polytechnic has decided to continue the agreement of service between DIST-Ithaca-Polito and Frontex (back story, here). After a meeting of the academic Senate on the 14th of December, the newspaper La Stampa reports that

At the end of the debate it was decided by a large majority to proceed with the signing of the Consortium Agreement with Frontex. At the same time it was decided to introduce a binding clause, which specifies the commitment of both the research staff involved and the client, to act in compliance with respect for human rights and fundamental human rights, as well as the principles of integrity of research.

I wonder how my colleagues in the Senate imagine the possibility of asking Frontex to comply with human rights. There is so much evidence indicating the agency is systematically involved in pushback, which means they are not allowing asylum seekers to enter Europe, therefore impeding them to exercise their right to request asylum. There is evidence indicating the agency is passing information to the so-called Lybian Coastal guard, which ten fire against the boats of migrants in the Mediterranean sea. There is evidence of the agency misusing funds, of agency personnel harassing migrants along the Balkan route, of the agency avoiding interventions when they should be needed, and much, much more. What does “integrity of research” mean in collaborating with such an Agency?

At a personal level, fighting this deal initiated in July (as I explain here). It continued with my public letter to Altrecomia (following the article of the journalist Luca Rondi on the same magazine), and then escalated in a greater number of interviews, articles, interventions (a full list with links at the end of this post). Despite the negative result, the collective that coalesced around this struggle is not lost, and will not be lost.

I want to thank all the ones that believed in this fight. Some of them are within the academy, including within the Politecnico. There are members of the Polytechnic Senate (thank, to some of you, for your courage and intellectual honesty, in particular Daniele Marchisio and Bruno Codispoti); of the administrative services; and of several unions, who have taken a clear position against the deal (thanks in particular to Paolo Barisone). There are some colleagues who did the same – above all, I want to thank Dr. Silvia Aru, a colleague in DIST, who has been always, very clearly, against the whole affair; and I also want to thank a number of Italian and international academics, who signed public petitions making their names visible (thanks to all of you!), who organised their own texts (thanks Paola Minoia), or took time to provide concrete help and advice (thanks Chiara Rabbiosi, Chiara Giubilaro, Simone Tulumello, Maurizio Memoli and Filippo Celata, among many). Thanks, above all, to Gennaro Avallone, Margherita Grazioli, Enrico Gargiulo, and Elena Giacomelli, who help to organise, to share, and to expand the fight; to the Coordinamento Unito and the Coordinamento Polito for their support to the cause; and to Francesca Governa, Marco Santangelo, Camillo Boano, Francesco Chiodelli and Isabella Consolati at DIST, who always discussed this with me, with open minds and hearts. Thanks to my international colleagues: my comrades in FCDL and in the Radical Housing Journal, my friends at the Unequal Cities Network at UCLA, in the Journal City, and those writing supportive statements from so many other corners around the globe, including an amazing one by 30+ colleagues at my old institution, The University of Sheffield, which really helped. There are some Ph.D. students in the DIST who took clear positions too, as well as some of my own students in the MA in Geography, and my own Ph.D. students in Sheffield and Turin (particular thanks to Francesca Guarino and Saanchi Saxena), to whom I am thankful for the support and for believing in the long-term goal of this fight.

However, this has been a fight involving Academia… fought for the most by non-academics or academics without permanent jobs. I have found strength and scope in people writing to me from Palermo to Trieste, and beyond Italy, too. Workers, students, mid-school teachers, retired people, kids. I am thankful to the students that organized in Turin, including the PhDs of ADI Turin, the geography students at Unito, the Gruppo Palestina, Cambiare Rotta and the communist group at Polito. I am thankful for the autonomous realities that hosted public debates on the story,  including Neruda in Turin, and to the journalists who wrote about this case and made it available to broader audiences. Above all, I want to thank Luca Rondi (Altreconomia), Francesca Spinelli (Internazionale), Teresa Paoli (Presadiretta), Giansandro Merli (Manifesto), Peter Yeung (Guardian), Frabrizio Maffioletti (Pressenzia), Marco Siragusa (EastJournal), Nicolò Arpinati (Dinamo Press), the Melitea group, and the comrades Margherita, Francesco e Maria at Radio BlackOut.

Most importantly and relevantly, I am extremely thankful to all the ones working to construct a differential way of dealing with migrations in Italy and Europe. Your care and attention to this story and to my persona have been heartfelt, and it only reaffirmed my conviction (shared with my comrades at FCDL and the RHJ) that only through horizontal solidarities and collective organising we can move meaningfully forward. You are too many to thank, and I will surely miss some. Thanks to the groups Sea Watch, ADIF – Associazione Diritti e Frontiere, Campagna LasciateCIEntrare, Carovane Migranti, Rete Antirazzista Catanese, Cobas Scuola Catania, Osservatorio Solidarietà, Torino per Moria, Borderline Sicilia, Ongi Etorri Errefuxiatuak, Progetto Meltingpot Europa and thanks also to ASGI. And deep thanks to a group of amazing individuals who really made this a collective endeavor, most especially thanks to Yasmine Accardo, Fulvio Vassallo Paleologo, Gianluca Vitale, Yasha Maccanico, Francesca Mazzuzi, Gennaro Avallone, Stefano Bleggi, Gianfranco Crua, Alfonso Di Stefano, Claudia Mantovan, Mariafrancesca D’Agostino, Maurizio Ricciardi, Barbara Sorgoni, Valeria Ferraris, Sandro Mezzadra, Stefania Spada, Giuseppe Campesi, Silvia De Meo e tant* altr*. Thanks to Leo for having been close to me the whole time.

At this point, I am more and more convinced that continuing to fight Frontex at all levels is very necessary. From my corner, I will create a safe space for critical and radical thinking around inhabitation, migrations and asylum well within DIST and the Polytechnic of Turin, and I will continue to work with my new comrades in the city to offer harbour and to create an alternative vision of what “research integrity” and “integrity” at large means. It is not time to retreat, but time to scale up. Avanti!

  

Interventions Frontex-POLITO at 14 December 2021

ITAArticoli:

· Il comunicato di Polito di Luglio, con il quale la notizia è stata resa pubblica: https://poliflash.polito.it/in_ateneo/politecnico_e_ithaca_insieme_per_la_produzione_di_cartografia_per_l_agenzia_europea_frontex

· Il pezzo che ha aperto le scene, su Altreconomia: https://altreconomia.it/il-politecnico-di-torino-a-fianco-di-frontex-sul-rispetto-dei-diritti-umani-intanto-cade-il-silenzio/

· La mia lettera pubblica: https://altreconomia.it/non-a-fianco-di-frontex-chi-si-dissocia-dallaccordo-del-politecnico-di-torino/

· La campagna Fuori Frontex dalle nostre Università, nata dopo i pezzi di cui sopra: https://www.lasciatecientrare.it/non-a-fianco-di-frontex/

· Del caso ha parlato anche Repubblica Torino, lo screenshot del pezzo si può trovare qui: https://nextcloud.rinlab.org/index.php/s/xg6WNspZkD5a28N

· Il bellissimo pezzo uscito su Internazionale (in cui si parla del caso a fine testo,e contiene molti riferimenti utili per capire il problema): https://www.internazionale.it/opinione/francesca-spinelli/2021/11/04/frontex-campagna-abolizione

· Una lettera pubblica firmata dai più importanti studiosi sulle migrazioni in Italia, che è uscita sul Manifesto: https://ilmanifesto.it/lettere/fuori-frontex-dalle-nostre-universita/

· Una intervista a Luca Rondi, il giornalista di Altreconomia, che è molto utile per spiegare a chi non vede il problema perchè il tutto è problematico: https://www.meltingpot.org/Il-Politecnico-di-Torino-e-l-accordo-con-Frontex.html#.YYP6n7vTUd2

· Mia intervista al gruppo Melitea, ripresa da Mediterranea Saving Humans: https://gruppomelitea.wordpress.com/2021/11/07/la-mia-universita-lavora-con-frontex-non-in-mio-nome-intervista-al-professor-michele-lancione/#more-2597

· Lettera pubblica indirizzata ai reggenti di Politecnico, da NGO italiane, per rescindere l’accordo: https://altreconomia.it/rescindere-il-contratto-con-frontex-lettera-aperta-al-politecnico-di-torino/

· Articolo su La Stampa: https://www.lastampa.it/torino/2021/11/17/news/protesta_al_politecnico_stop_al_contratto_da_4_milioni_con_frontex_-414438/

· Lettera di supporto dal Coordinamento UniTo: https://coordinamentounito.wordpress.com/2021/11/23/e-questa-la-ricerca-di-frontiera/

· Lettera di supporto dal Coordinamento Polito: https://coordinamentopolito.wordpress.com/2021/11/20/lettera-aperta-al-politecnico-di-torino-riguardo-la-collaborazione-con-frontex/

· Articolo su Internazionale KIDS, che spiega la questione ai ragazzi. Si trova in cartaceo, o scannerizzato, qui: https://nextcloud.rinlab.org/index.php/s/5CW9CSQo6XXAodK

· Articolo di approfondimento su EaST Journal: https://www.eastjournal.net/archives/122096

· Articolo di Pressenza sull’incontro al Politecnico del 1/1/21: https://www.pressenza.com/it/2021/12/torino-fuori-frontex-dal-politecnico/

· Comunicato Lasciateci Entrare su riunione Senato per accordo: https://www.lasciatecientrare.it/frontex-e-ricerca-universitaria-qual-e-il-problema/

· Articolo de La Stampa su assemblea al Politecnico: https://www.lastampa.it/torino/2021/12/02/news/rescindete_quel_contratto_assemblea_pubblica_al_politecnico_contro_l_accordo_con_frontex-991542/

· Dossier di Cambiare Rotta: Il Progetto dell’Unione Europea sui suoi Confini: https://cambiare-rotta.org/2021/12/06/dossier-frontex-il-progetto-dellunione-europea-sui-suoi-confini/

· Altro articolo di Luca Rondi su Altreconomia: https://altreconomia.it/il-politecnico-di-torino-e-a-un-bivio-con-frontex-o-con-i-diritti-umani/

· Presa di posizione del Coordinamento Migranti: https://www.coordinamentomigranti.org/2021/12/06/fare-fronte-contro-frontex-i-migranti-e-la-lotta-sui-confini/

· Dossier del collettivo Metamorfosi: https://www.academia.edu/63947546/Analisi_di_una_committenza_Politecnico_Frontex_un_caso_di_Academic_Washing

· Lettera aperta RSU Polito sul caso Frontex, disponibile qui: https://nextcloud.rinlab.org/index.php/s/tLtzQrzdJcfp8sn

· L’Associazione per gli Studi Giuridici sull’Immigrazione (ASGI) riporta la nostra lettera: https://www.asgi.it/notizie/rescindere-il-contratto-con-frontex-lettera-aperta-al-politecnico-di-torino/

 

ITARadio, videos and public meetings:

· Intervista con Radio Blackout: https://radioblackout.org/2021/10/accordo-politecnico-frontex-dissenso-in-accademia-intervista-con-michele-lancione/

· Video di incontro con student* a Palazzo Nuovo Torino. Da min 13 a 39 Lancione spiega l’accordo. Da notare anche intervento dei compagn* di Sea Watch: https://www.facebook.com/CambiareRottaTorino/videos/403610054642077/

· Seminario a Salerno, “Non a fianco di Frontex, non in nostro nome”: https://www.disps.unisa.it/unisa-rescue-page/dettaglio/id/2547/module/488/row/17071

· Prima occasione pubblica di incontro dentro al Politecnico sul tema, con studenti, giornalisti, attivisti, avvocati: https://www.facebook.com/events/593243081942483?ref=newsfeed

· Video intervista per Pressenza: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F-kx5hW8FEU&t=245s

· Incontro allo spazio popolare Neruda, Che cos’è Frontex? https://www.facebook.com/events/s/che-cose-frontex/451037489924340/

 

ENG:

· Lancione’s letter to Altreconomia, translated into English: https://www.michelelancione.eu/blog/2021/10/24/my-university-works-with-frontex-not-in-my-name/

· AbolishFrontex: https://abolishfrontex.org/blog/2021/10/25/my-university-works-with-frontex-not-in-my-name/ e https://abolishfrontex.org/blog/2021/11/16/open-letter-to-polytechnic-university-of-turin-about-working-for-frontex/

· Statewatch: https://www.statewatch.org/news/2021/november/not-alongside-frontex-academics-speak-out-against-border-collaboration/

· Letter from the Decolonise.eu network: https://decolonise.eu/not-alongside-frontex/

· Debate on Twitter: https://twitter.com/michelelancione/status/1452507202867154946

Frontex out of our Universities! Articles in l’Internazionale and il Manifesto + Petition

Two major news outlets, among others,  are talking of this matter today in Italy (my original story is here).

Francesca Spinelli interviewed me for the Internazionale , while il Manifesto has published a collective letter of Italian academics working on migrations to keep #Frontex out of our Academic Institutions.

A nationwide campaign has also started from the grassroots, at Lasciateci Entrare.

My University works with Frontex: not in my name

My Department at the Polytechnic of Turin is creating maps for Frontex, the EU border control agency, which is involved in the violent pushbacks of refugees.

I wrote to Altreconomia – the magazine that broke the story – to dissociate myself and to fight this agreement. The full story is available on their website: https://altreconomia.it/non-a-fianco-di-frontex-chi-si-dissocia-dallaccordo-del-politecnico-di-torino/

I have translated the piece in English below.

With a few colleagues we have been fighting this agreement since July when it was announced, and we will continue to fight it now. This public statement is a message for students and partners. Some of us are not silent, some of us are vigil, some of us will not stay put. Universities are complicit in bordering and racial violence: it needs to stop.

UPDATE 4-11-2021: Two major news outlets, among others,  are talking of this matter today in Italy. Francesca Spinelli interviewed me for the Internazionale , while il Manifesto has published a collective letter of Italian academics working on migrations to keep #Frontex out of our Academic Institutions. A nationwide campaign has also started from the grassroots, at Lasciateci Entrare.

 

Not alongside Frontex

 

           “The deeds were monstrous, but the doer […] was quite ordinary, commonplace, and neither demonic nor monstrous.”

              Hannah Arendt

I am an academic from the Interuniversity Department of Regional and Urban Studies and Planning (DIST) of the Politecnico and the University of Turin. I am writing this text to publicly dissociate myself from the agreement signed between my Department, the Politecnico di Torino, Ithaca Srl and Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency.

As an article published by the magazine Antreconomia points out, the agreement, which involves the production of cartography at my Department’s laboratories on behalf of Frontex, was announced on July 14, 2021, by press release. In the communiqué, it is stated that DIST and Ithaca will be involved in the production of digital cartography, infographic maps and map books useful for the Agency’s work“. On an intellectual and human level, I am not represented by the position of the institution I work for, which has chosen to define the agreement with Frontex as a project that “fits perfectly into the strategic objective of the Department”. The issue, however, is not only personal but political.

The European Border and Coast Guard Agency has been accused by NGOs, activists, and international agencies on several occasions of being directly involved in the violent deportations of migrants at European borders. The most notorious is the Greek case, now before the European Court of Justice, where we are sure of the illegality of the Agency’s forced removals and its role in destroying documents that show the illegal use of force to return refugees to Turkey. This episode is just the culmination of a strategy operated by the European Union, through Frontex, to manage the EU’s borders through expulsive, racialising and lethal principles against those who move to seek protection on the continent.

As a critical academic and a citizen engaged, through the privilege of my position, in understanding and combating the structural and mundane violence constructing, and managing, the racialised “other”, I have done everything in my power to highlight the gravity of this agreement between a public university – my Department – and Frontex. I mobilised with some colleagues since July 14 (the day I learned about the contract) to question what was decided. We spoke out in the departmental council, where the agreement was presented, highlighting the gravity of the decision. We then worked to understand whether it was possible to cancel the contract. We also asked that this activity should not be carried out on behalf of the whole Department, but that the individuals involved should take the weight and responsibility of their action. On all fronts, the responses were negative: we received just offers of dialogue, discussion, and matter of internal power-balancing. But this is not enough.

The problem here is not just in the kind of data that Ithaca and my Department will provide to Frontex. The researchers involved in the project say it is open source, harmless data. Beyond the fact that no data is ever harmless, the issue is about lending one’s name – individual and institutional – to legitimise the work of an agency like Frontex. Because this is what you do, when you collaborate: you help the violent and expulsive apparatus of the European Union to legitimise itself, to clothe itself with scientific objectivity, to reduce everything to a technical issue that reproduces its evil by turning it into a passing of documents between hands. History should have taught us something in this respect in Europe, but clearly, we have learned nothing.

The Department has chosen to continue the agreement, inviting me and some colleagues who have expressed reservations to contribute to its development by highlighting the problematic aspects of Frontex’s activity. It has also decided not to publicly represent our dissent, preferring the line of silence, which is also that of the Polytechnic.

However, I believe it is impossible to work with those who, like Frontex, repel, foment xenophobia, and kill. With this text, I dissociate myself from the agreement. At the same time, I renew my commitment to my students, colleagues and partners who will always find, in my Department and at the Politecnico di Torino, tools and spaces for radical criticism, which requires a precise positioning: not alongside Frontex.

Michele Lancione, Full Professor of Political-Economic Geography, DIST, Turin