Love at the bottom of the sea

Ewropa! Intix
tisma’ l-imħabba ssejjaħ
minn qiegħ il-baħar?


Europe! Can you not
hear love calling out from the
bottom of the sea?


Europe ! N’entends-tu donc pas
l’appel de l'amour
venant du fond de la mer ?

Europa! Ben je
doof voor de roep van liefde
uit de zeebodem?


(French translation from the
Maltese by Elizabeth Grech

Dutch translation from the
English by Joke Kaviaar)


This heart-wrenching photogram is taken from a video published on 15th May 2014 by La Repubblica, recorded by police divers off Isola dei Conigli, Lampedusa, last October. A shipwreck that cost the lives of 366 people - men, women, children, and a newborn baby still attached by the umbilical cord to his 20-year-old mother.

A heart-wrenching image, but somehow, also heartening. To die alone is perhaps one of our profoundest fears. The embrace shown in this photo is a powerful symbol: borders, built according to a policy of fear and hate, may continue to separate people or even murder them - and yet, love prevails.

Perhaps it was insensitive of La Repubblica to publish the police divers’ video, even if it appears care has been taken to ensure that faces are not recognisable. For survivors of this shipwreck and others, the footage will no doubt be traumatic. Perhaps it is insensitive of me also to republish this photogram. Aditus, a Maltese human rights NGO that I highly respect and follow, has condemned the dissemination of the video as a disrespectful invasion of privacy, and I see their point. Working closely with migrants in Malta, they may have witnessed someone’s distress at the publication of the footage first-hand. The damage may be done, but it’s no justification. 

Having said that, the excruciating reality of the footage published by La Repubblica, and reproduced on dozens of other media outlets in different countries, will hopefully have significant impact on decision and policy makers, and of course on the general public. Particularly on those politicians and voters who dream of their nation-states becoming impregnable islands, keeping ‘undesirables’ out with the intensive construction of militarised walls and hi-tech fences, filling the deep pockets of private security companies in the process. Again, the photo of the embrace is especially poignant, as an image of love and affection in the face of extreme hostility.

It may take another five to seven generations, but love will eventually pull the borders down. This may indeed be a delusion on my part, and on the part of many other no-border activists, and yet I would prefer working towards that delusion, rather than allowing pessimism to clip our wings. If anything, the photograph above, at once frightening and endearing, should continue to embolden and encourage us.

After an eight-month hiatus writing new stuff and working on the Le monde n'est pas rond webzine, it's time to relaunch the Passport project. Stay tuned for the March for Freedom, 250+ refugees and activists walking from Strasbourg to Brussels, passing via Luxembourg on 1st-5th June. On Sunday 1st June, the march will cross the border from Perl, Germany into Schengen, Luxembourg. Personne n'est illégal - Luxembourg are planning to stage a mini-concert and poetry reading to welcome the marchers once they have crossed the Moselle bridge. More details as we have them.

On 19th July, D'Autres Cordes (Franck Vigroux & Jean-Marc Bourg) will be performing their musical adaptation of the Passport poem at the Voix de la Méditerranée poetry festival in Lodève, France. Other performances are planned for theatres in southern France towards the end of the year. In the mean time, we're working on adaptations of the poem into new languages, among them Serbian, Polish, and Dutch.

For more information on the March for Freedom, visit


Out of place – or to return without returning

Eppure l’Italia è una parola aperta, piena d’aria.
Erri de Luca, Solo andata (Nota di geografia)


Map after map, we’re accustomed to seeing the Italian peninsula as a boot, perhaps for the catwalk, perhaps for the football pitch, or simply for hiking, even whilst staying put. Now and again the leg bends slightly at the knee, a natural reflex with each earthquake large or small, only to then freeze back into position. The threat to dig her heel into Albania, or to kick the Sicilian she-goat in the forehead, thankfully never materialises. Yet Italy hasn’t always been so still. Glance a little further south, below Malta, and you’ll notice that Sicily would snuggle in almost perfectly between Gabès and Tripoli, after which the Italian peninsula would click in nicely between Sfax and Benghazi, her sole straddling the bulging curve that overlooks the Gulf of Sidra. Just as India detached herself from eastern Africa and floated her way into the underbelly of Asia, forcing up the Himalayas, Italy broke off the Maghreb, crossed the Mediterranean and created the Alps with a crash. Much like jigsaw pieces, continuing their slow-motion blast out of Pangaea. And there is Italy, dangling from Europe like a rope tapering at the edge.

Photo by Luca Palermitano (NASA) 

Photo by Luca Palermitano (NASA)


Now rotate the map 90° to the right, to see Italy from the east. Sicily turns into a small bird, perched on a forked branch, looking north. Or maybe a desert nomad, stepping onto the toe of Europe, ready to begin the steep climb toward the metropolis. Above and below the crust of the earth, migrations continue to shape the land. In contemporary Italian consciousness, migration is a complex myriad of realities, much closer to home yet less literally black-and-white than it has become in Malta, where the word ‘(im)migrant’ is fast becoming equivalent to a racist insult, the adjectives no longer needed. The difference may partly be due to a simple fact of geographic expanse: Malta is an overcrowded sea bream, whereas the dangling Italian rope she stares at from below is long and rugged enough to host its own ‘internal’ diasporas, appearing and disappearing. Close to the sole of the boot, 20 km east of Taranto at the beginning of the Salento peninsula, the village of San Marzano or Shën Marcani hosts a handful of families who speak Arbëreshë, a variant of southern Albanian present in Italy since the 15th century. Further down the heel, a cluster of twelve villages collectively known as La Grecìa Salentina are home to around 10,000 people who still speak, to some degree, their own language of Griko – which can be described, very broadly, as a latinised form of ancient Greek. The numbers are inevitably dwindling, with Griko set to become fossilised and idealised in EU-funded text books reproducing traditional proverbs and songs. One type of Griko song is the miroloj, a form of elegy performed only at funerals. The terrorising question for the grecanici is, when the last speaker of Griko passes away, who will be there to sing the final miroloj ?

Detail from  Terra tarantina , a map by visual artist  Francesco Frascella  (Carosino / Rome)

Detail from Terra tarantina, a map by visual artist Francesco Frascella (Carosino / Rome)

Biagio Lieti shares a word with Livio Sossi, one of the authors invited to the festival  Parlate di luce.  Photo ©  Dino Maglie

Biagio Lieti shares a word with Livio Sossi, one of the authors invited to the festival Parlate di luce. Photo © Dino Maglie

Last September, the village of Carosino, nestled between Shën Marcani   and the deep ravines of Grottaglie, hosted the second edition of its literary festival Parlate di luce: Rassegna di poesia abitata. The event is the brainchild of poet Biagio Lieti, one of a large section of the young Carosino population who found themselves pushed into pursuing their careers up north, . Organised with the sterling and unconditional help of cousins, friends and old primary school classmates, the festival spreads over two long weekends, attracting spectators from surrounding towns and villages thirsty for local cultural events. The south-north imbalance in Italy is still very much felt, as much on the part of the emigrated as inside the homes left behind. The festival’s suggestive subtitle of ‘inhabited poetry’, partly a wink to the literature of paesologia promoted by Franco Arminio (a much-needed initiative, taking psychogeography out of the city and into the villages and countryside), invites authors to express their take on the relationships between poetry and place. Accidentally yet perhaps unavoidably, migration turned out to be the main theme of the second weekend of readings; or to be more exact, migration and the (im)possibility of return. On Saturday 21st, Gioia Perrone teamed up with local retired teacher Angela Monteleone, to improvise short poems inspired by Angela’s old family photographs, featuring two of her children, musicians who went on to find their luck in London. The final lines of Perrone’s poem March: Variable Sky capture well the bitter-sweet tension between those who sail away toward new opportunities – or toward a ‘looser’ and more romantic form of captivity – and those who stay on, waiting for the waiting to begin:

The following morning I am on the verge of leaving
                             everything appears to be pure
the emerald masts, the galleys full
the ships I see are anchored to my pupils
ships of mine for galley slaves of all eras
and for you, if you wish to flee.
Yet I always remain, with the music of the names I despise,
my hand raised in the air to salute you.

With Marco Inguscio. Photo ©  Dino Maglie

With Marco Inguscio. Photo © Dino Maglie

Marco Inguscio recites his prose poems, as Azzurra Cecchini illustrates his words in the background. Photo ©  Dino Maglie

Marco Inguscio recites his prose poems, as Azzurra Cecchini illustrates his words in the background. Photo © Dino Maglie

The veins of Italy’s leg are thicker than its arteries, with travel northward still a great deal more frequent (and logistically easier) than the return south. What pushes the active population of Puglia ‘up’ towards cities such as Rome, Milan and Turin is, of course, a desire for a more stable form of precarietà, that increasingly blasphemous word that translates into something a little more gut-wrenching than ‘precariousness’ or ‘insecurity’. As young writer Marco Inguscio explained in his recital on Sunday 22nd, underlying the pain of forced emigration is what he calls la precarietà dell’emozione. Inguscio himself hails from the town of Gallipoli – close to the tip of the Salento heel -, yet like Biagio Lieti, he now lives and works in Rome. Away from home, how long does it take before the return home is no longer possible, as home changes and therefore ceases to exist? Italy is also the shape of a tree trunk, its roots thinning out into the Ionian Sea. This is perhaps the other side of migration, less often considered than the emotional uncertainties of those still migrating or arrived: the map becomes obsolete as soon as it is printed, and the familiar soon becomes heart-rendingly exotic. Visual artist Azzurra Cecchini illustrated this dichotomy well as she accompanied our poems with her felt pens on stage, her drawings projected live on the wall behind us. The Passport poem I recited with Inguscio speaks, at one point, of the possibility of returning to forbidden homes, yet it remains a lot more concerned with the possibilities of moving on, away, beyond. A number of Inguscio’s short yet excitingly dense poetic prose pieces shed a frightening light on the deep personal tension between distance in space and distance in time; in his metri 37, the precariousness of emotion that comes with self-imposed exile from a past love finds a very physical, macabre expression: “These nights, on the other hand, are spiders, eating away at your head one morsel at a time“. In his piece Clandestini, even the train stations left behind have morphed into stray animals:


At times I feel alone, like polar bears beached in winters not their own, in cold climates different to their own. Like the Tunisians and Eritreans that disembarked the other day – two hundred of them at first, now forty -, who will now discover the south-eastern train stations, strays older than themselves. I think about losing myself in space, becoming an infinite nothing, a spent nothing. I think of ultraviolet, the colour of your eyes on a night of dissolved crystals.

Devo migrare – Promettimi che torni, wood and ceramics, by Giorgio di Palma (Grottaglie)

An abandoned palummaru (dovecote) outside Carosino. Photo by Vincenzo Cuomo.

Spaces left behind are of course soon re-occupied by others, and naturally so. Strolling around Biagio Lieti’s childhood landscapes – the thyme and rucola-coated ravines of Grottaglie, the farms bordered by giuggiole or jujube (a sweet fruit known in Maltese as ġuġù), a wild mandorleto or almond grove peppered with bits of ancient ceramics -, we come across a palummaru, a dovecote or pigeon farm long abandoned by its owner. The birds long gone – eaten or released -, the tower has been re-colonised by a fig tree, its branches sprouting freely out of the window and above the crown. The image is at once promising and desolate. Parlate di luce was a festival close to home, perhaps the smallest I’ve been to, with its warm family atmosphere, its heartbeat that of a young poet named after the patron saint of his village, San Biagio, but also the heartbeat of those close to him, even if he now lives a long train ride away. It’s a special and generous festival which I hope will continue to grow and take wing on an international scale. I left with a melancholic taste in my mouth, that of the salty breeze more than vaguely reminiscent of my own village on the belly of the sea bream further south, a village whose physical and emotional maps have inevitably transformed as I while my time in the mists of the north. The following week, Carosino would be host to many more ‘northern southerners’, with its Sagra del Vino, a long weekend in which the fountain at the centre of Piazza Vittorio Emanuele III spurts out red wine all day and all night, filling the village air with the happier fragrance of alcohol and must.

Photo by Chris Hadfield (NASA)

Now turn the map of Italy ‘south-up’. Sicily pounces like a jaguar; Puglia and Calabria become the hump and head of a camel, stuck in a drainpipe. The camel metaphor may seem surreal, but it was famously sung by Franco Battiato in his song Come un cammello in una grondaia, taken in its turn from the writings of 11th-century mystic Abu Rayhan al-Biruni, the founding father of anthropology and of geodesy, the measurement and representation of the Earth. Al-Biruni’s mother tongue was Khwarezmian, a language close to Persian, once spoken on the southern banks of the Aral Sea (modern-day Uzbekistan). Expressing the need to ‘migrate’ into the Arabic language in order to be able to study science, he wrote that “it would be as strange to encounter a scientific concept in Persian as it would be to see a camel in a gutter (mīzāb)“. Battiato, of course, has taken the metaphor of absurdity out of context, to a relevant emotional conclusion. And this, I believe, is what many emigrants feel when returning home without returning: unable to comprehend the fragment of the Earth that used to be familiar to them, neither in their newly adopted languages, nor in their own, which have also continued to evolve without them.


The Mediterranean, south-up

After a long summer writing about islands and migrations, this weekend I’ll be back on the road, and on the sea.

On Sunday 22nd, I’ll be in the village of Carosino, Italy, for the second edition of the festival Parlate di luce. After reading a couple of multilingual ‘mosaics’ (for old times’ sake), there’ll be a recital of the Passport poem, in Maltese and in its Italian adaptation by my good friend Biagio Lieti. Puglian artist Azzurra Cecchini (who has drawn some fantastic heart-shaped maps of her home town, Brindisi) will be projecting live drawings during the recital. Donations from the sale of the Passaporto will be passed on to Associazione Intercultura e Mobilità, a grassroots association based in Rome, working for the promotion and development of opportunities for young members of society from Italy and beyond.

The following weekend, on Saturday 28th, I’ll be home in Malta, to present a new poetry booklet at an event celebrating the European Day of Languages, organised by the Għaqda tal-Malti on behalf of the European Commission Representation. Mappa tal-Mediterran is a poem in 16 stanzas, describing the shapes of the Mediterranean Sea, its coastlines and some of its major and minor islands, in relation to the early and modern histories of the Mediterranean peoples. The booklet, designed by graphic artists Marco Scerri (cover and typography) and Rafael Rivera (inside maps), is published with the support of the Għaqda tal-Malti.

The ‘south-up’ orientation of the Mediterranean Sea shown on the cover reveals the shape of a boat – perhaps a bronze-age Minoan sailboat, the first to harness the winds toward new trades with Egypt and Canaan, or perhaps a more modern, ramshackle fishing vessel, with a squeezed cabin, departing from Tangiers, Tunis or Tripoli toward new challenges – and new dangers – further north. Much of the poem is a lyrical development of ideas I first expressed in my introduction to Marco Scerri’s photographic series Distant Land, portraying the everyday life of sub-Saharan migrants living at the Peace Laboratory in Ħal Far. On the 28th, I’ll be reciting the poem with musical accompaniment by Effie Azzopardi (trumpet) and Samwel Grima (bass). English and Italian translations of the poem will be published at a later stage. 


Mappa tal-Mediterran, p. 5



In the southern wind, in the broad shadow
of the tousled olive tree,
a reclined foetus,
his head resting on the sandy
pillow of the Sinai,
between Morocco and Andalusia
the tips of his feet twist
tiny whirlpools,
from the stretched out
cord, he drinks the patient whiteness
of the still-rising Alps.
Drowsing away
in the blue of the womb,
at Corfu, a seahorse
tickles at his tummy
with its miniature tail.



After the trip, as of mid-October, Le monde n’est pas rond, the international magazine on migration, borders, and human rights published in collaboration with Nobody is Illegal – Luxembourg, will migrate from a printed newspaper to a webzine format. The change of strategy comes for practical reasons, and also for the benefit of its readers. New content will be published two to three times a week, with a few surprises up our sleeve; after a year, the best and most popular works will be collected in a printed anthology. Alternative journalism, short stories, poems, photographs, visual art and illustration, reviews, videos and music. The spirit will remain the same: collaboration among artists and writers from different disciplines, in Luxembourg and beyond, in 4 languages, around a common message – a call for softer borders, universal freedom of movement, and respect for human dignity, irrespective of one’s origins, melanin skin content or nation-state GDP. Stay tuned. 

In the mean time, Mhux F’Isimna (Not In Our Name), the Maltese blog against racism and the policy of deportation, continues to welcome articles, stories, poems and other artistic works in whatever discipline, in Maltese or English. Originally created last July in response to the Maltese Prime Minister’s threat to deport a group of Somali refugees to the military airport of Mitiga in Libya (a move subsequently halted by the European Court of Human Rights, thanks to the swift mobilisation of NGOs and lawyers in Malta), Mhux F’Isimna is slowly morphing into an anthology of works on the general themes of migration, diversity and anti-racism. At some point in the future, it would be a nice idea to collect these works as a printed book, following in the tradition begun a few years ago by Adrian Grima and Karl Schembri, with their anthologies on food sovereignty, climate change, and solidarity with the people of Gaza. We look forward to receiving more creative works to add to the 33 posts published so far on the blog.

As we say in Maltese, “Tlaqna” – not quite equivalent to “Let’s go”, but closer to “We’ve already left”.


"Le monde n'est pas rond" - call for haiku on migration and borders


Whilst we're documenting last Saturday's solidarity Manifestival in front of the migrant detention centre in Findel, Luxembourg, and sifting patiently through the content we've received so far for Issue 2 of our artistic newspaper Le monde n'est pas rond (see the call for submissions), here's an informal call for readers to send in some haiku on migration and borders, for possible publication in the same issue.

Languages: English, French, German, or Luxembourgish. Translations from other languages are more than welcome.

Deadline: 21st July.

No need to stick religiously to the 5-7-5 rule; we're more interested in concision of thought, paradox, and of course image and symbolism.

Post your haiku in the comments, or send them to mondepasrond at gmail dot com. Here are some examples to get the cogs in motion.

Detail of p. 28 of Le monde n'est pas rond, Issue 1. Illustration by Olivier Potozec 'Sader'. 

Issue 1 of Le monde n'est pas rond
includes a haiku by Maltese writer Jean-Paul Borg, translated into French by myself and Elizabeth Grech:

j'ai dû le sortir
devant son regard tranchant
mon passeport rouge

(English: had to take it out / before his cutting gaze / my red passport )
(original Maltese: kelli noħorġu / quddiemu b'ħarsa mqita / passaport aħmar)

And here are some of my own. The first two are translated from the original Maltese, the last two were written directly in English.

A Syrian boy
paints houses on the canvas
of his tent.

No flag, large or small,
deserves greater esteem than
the hand that sews it.

People cross borders.
It's been that way ever since
borders crossed people.

Dear people of Mars:
are our borders visible
in your evening sky?

Images accompanying the haiku are also most welcome. Here's an illustration by my friend Daniel Dacio, a painter based in Madrid, of a haiku I wrote back in 2007 at the Istanbul airport. Whilst I was waiting in the immigration queue, a toddler, no more than four years old, was leaping back and forth across the customs barrier, laughing to himself as if aware of the subversion and poetry of his play. The Japanese translation is by Yasuhiro Yotsumoto. 

The airport. Boy leaps / over the customs checkpoint. / He knows no borders.

Original Maltese version published on the back cover of the book Bejn / Between.

Poems for Freedom


This week I received the anthology Poems for Freedom. Edited by Manchester-based author, playwright and activist Alex Clarke, this book was put together to raise funds for the Freedom Bookshop in Whitechapel, east London, to help towards its repair costs after it was firebombed on the night of 1st February. Luckily, no one was hurt, but the shop sustained plenty of damage both from the fire and the two hours of water needed to extinguish the blaze. Media attention regarding the attack was at first very sparse, but the news spread quickly via social networking and word of mouth, and a large team was soon mobilised for the cleanup (photos, short video). You can see some of the damage in the video below, published the night after the incident.


This is not the first time the shop has been targeted ("This wasn't an accident. Somebody had to lift up a metal shutter to break the window to start the fire", one of their members stated to The Guardian) - it suffered an arson attack at the hands of neo-nazi organisation Combat18 back in 1993. Founded in 1886, Freedom Press is the largest anarchist publishing house in the UK, and the oldest of its kind in the English-speaking world. According to the description on the official website, the Freedom Bookshop offers "a much needed outlet for radical ideas and a meeting place for the anarchist thinkers of the day, and we seek to continue that tradition today along with promoting and supporting current social and political struggles".

As someone commented on Alex Clarke's blog, "Firebombs are a great compliment, they let you know that you are getting through."

Poems for Freedom brings together 45 poems, by a variety of established and emerging writers. There's a great poem by veteran no-holds-barred Heathcote Williams, entitled Tony Blair and the Iraqi child. There are poems that cry out to leap off the page and onto the stage, such as Zita Holbourne's Dare to dream; in memory of Dr Martin Luther King (listen on Soundcloud), or Niall McDevitt's rumbustious Mindcuffs. One of my favourites, for its rhythm, diachronic voice (diving into the collective unconscious, from the time of Genghis Khan to Nazi Germany through to the blowing up of the Buddhas of Kandahar), and calm quasi-epic tone, is Shirani Rajapakse's I Will Rise. Here's a short extract, which gains particular reference in the context of this book:

They broke down the walls of worship in the
desert, killed the statues and set fire
to manuscripts. But I rose. They did all this, I'm
not surprised, not one bit as someone
threw a bomb inside my house and let it burn,
burn. My words crumpled and turned
to cinders and they think they
have won. [...]

Alan Morrison's poem Ash Friday, in long, semi-iambic rhyming lines, appears to have been written specifically for the book. It begins: "The lights are out in Whitechapel but brick-lit beacons glow - / When torches burn for 'freedom', the books are first to go, / They catch at Fahrenheit Four Five One (as all fascists know) / ...". It has some wonderful alliterations, that make the reception of the poem more physical, whilst lending it a more humorous, fascist-taunting tone: "firebombed freedom billows up in smoke", "a backstreet blackshirt Guido", "pokey foxed pockets of hope, / Those little shops of peacenik-prop that stock a wider scope ...".

Another favourite, combining my fondness for 'geographical' poems and - I can't help it - for poems that challenge man-made borders, is the short poem Landlocked, signed rather anonymously by Katherine H. I quote it in its entirety, in admiration of its trembling opening and closing metaphors:

I used to think the wind was what happened
when the planet shook its atmospheres
like they were the plates of a jittery armadillo.
That its purpose was the charitable transfer of fruits
to barren places, or to confuse
nature into fissile clashes of proliferation
while it slunk off to dissipate the assets.
Today I think the wind must feel its roots in bedrock
the way it tears at trees and grass,
wanting to be free of chains.

The book also includes a short extract from Passport, adapted from the Maltese by Albert Gatt and myself.

Poems for Freedom is available to buy on Lulu. News and interviews with editor Alex Clarke (who took on the enormous task of whittling down over 700 submissions to 45, and of putting the book together) on the Manchester Mule and Write Out Loud.

'Passport' recital @ "Migration & Borders" conference, Univ. of Luxembourg, 26.4.13

On 26th April 2013, Personne n'est illégal - Luxembourg  and Passaport Project  were invited to close the "Migration & Borders" international conference at the University of Luxembourg.

Following Sandie Richard's presentation of the independent activist group  Personne n'est illégal 's arguments and activities, I recited the English adaptation of the Passport  poem, accompanied by Giovanni Cognoli on the bass guitar, and Andrew Sammut on the electric piano. 

Photographs by Paola Cairo & Bénédicte Postel. 

The Oranienplatz refugee camp, Berlin Kreuzberg

Last December, whilst in Berlin for a reading at the Kreuzberg Museum, I visited the Infopoint of the refugee camp in Oranienplatz, installed there since October. At the time, there were around 80 refugees living in the tents, including people from Syria, Palestine, and sub-Saharans who used to work in Libya, before managing to flee and avoid being forced to join either of the armies in the previous year's civil war. Others, like C.C. from Togo, have been in Germany for over 8 years, still awaiting papers. It's cold in Oranienplatz, but the spirits were high.

Whilst chatting to some of the activists at the Infopoint (in between power cuts, searching for medicines, and English-to-French interpretation for C.C.), I was happy to learn that around 100 volunteers rotate shifts there, manning the Infopoint and keeping on the lookout 24 hours a day. Two of the volunteers I conversed with had come to Berlin for a few days from Vienna and Oxford; one of them was severely worried about a potential attack by neo-nazi groups, who assemble only a few U-bahn stops away. He had brought his large black dog along with him from Vienna, just in case. That evening, the dog was as peaceful as ever. The bravery, energy and active solidarity of these volunteers is almost overwhelming.

In a speech at the Kreuzberg Museum the previous evening, the mayor of Kreuzberg-Friedrichshain did not beat around the bush - after speaking of the Oranienplatz refugee camp (only 200m away from the Museum), he expressed his personal shame for not having done more, and earlier, to help the refugees currently living there. With the mayor's consent, over the next couple of weeks, refugee families were slowly relocated to an abandoned school 15 minutes away from the camp.