Montag, 10. Oktober 2011

Report from Lampedusa 10th-12th October 2011

I came to Lampedusa on Saturday. It was a day when many boats arrived- seven in total, between 10h00 and 22h00. All together around 600 people arrived on the island. They joined the 500 already present in the two centres, which makes 1100 people being held, whilst awaiting to be identified and then either transferred to Immigrant Detention Centres (CIEs) or repatriated. 

Sunday saw yet another boat arrive at around 4am, whilst another carrying 36 migrants arrived on Linosa. Both of the boats had Tunisian migrants only aboard. There were very few women and children. Given that the Tunisians do not have access to asylum procedures, this new influx has seen the Lampedusan Centres all but be transformed into CIEs. The riots which occurred a few days ago have now subsided, but a sense of unrest remains within the centres due to the sheer number of migrants present and the rigid attitudes which are being held, particularly towards some of the Tunisians. The everyday inefficiency of those running the centre, who go some way to covering up their intentions to humiliate and break these people, along with their exclusive interest in minimising costs and maximising profits, is also contributing to the unrest. The conditions of the women and the girls (Nigerian and Tunisian minors) is particularly vulnerable due to levels of promiscuity within the centre. It is highly likely that they are being subjected to sexual exploitation in exchange for protection and favours. All tourists have more or less left the island now. The Lampedusans continually complain about the poor and interrupted tourist season. Those most enlightened attribute at least some of the blame to the lack of political intervention which did little to cap flight prices (particularly for flights from Milan). Many are angry with the journalists. A group of German film makers who were with me were assaulted and insulted by a group of 16-17 year olds when attempting to film the arrival of one of the boats carrying migrants. They believed that maybe the teenagers did not want to be filmed, instead the girls were furious about journalists destroying the image of their island and putting their livelihoods at risk. In other (not rare) incidents, the blame has clearly been place on the migrants, "It's either them or me. If I see one I'll shoot" (said one Lampedusan at the airport).The opinion that the sub Saharan Africans are good people who are in difficulty while the vast majority of the Tunisians are dangerous ex- convicts without scruples, is widespread. The group of German film makers will remain on the island until next week and may be able to provide further updates and general information on the situation.

Alice Pugliese
Palermo Anti-Racist Forum