Wednesday, January 28, 2009

UNITED BY GRIEF

Today has been the fourth day of a general strike on the beautiful but troubled island of Lampedusa. For newer readers, Lampedusa is often the destination of would-be illegal immigrants from North Africa. Some manage to get as far as its shores unaided whilst many others are rescued from their inadequate boats or from the sea itself and are taken there. The island has a "welcome" centre built for 800 but currently said to be providing accommodation for 1,800 people. The residents of Lampedusa are fed up, as the situation affects their tourist trade and of course changes their lives in other ways not of their choosing.
Now the Italian Government wants to build a second centre on the island and claims that this centre will be used to identify and deport the clandestini more quickly. The inhabitants of Lampedusa believe this will only make matters worse and, at the end of their tether, they began a general strike on Sunday and are also staging protests, led by their Mayor. 600 detainees temporarily escaped from the original centre on Sunday and joined the protest, as they are unhappy about their treatment, especially given the overcrowding. Thus the interests of these two groups strangely coincided and the residents applauded the clandestini.
Over 36,000 clandestini have landed in Italy by sea in the past year, some 31,000 of these on Lampedusa. Wherever one's sympathies may lie, it is clear that such a small island cannot be expected to cope. The Italian Interior Minister has today reached agreement with the Tunisian government, which will take back its nationals who are at the moment on Lampedusa. However, it is going to take more than this to impress the Mayor.
Italy is by no means a heartless country and Sunday's protest ended with a ceremony to commemorate the clandestini who had drowned on their dangerous voyage and fishermen from the island who had also lost their lives at sea. The priest's words touched my own heart and expressed the feelings of many: "Siamo accomunati dallo stesso dolore che è universale e non ha colore" = "We are joined together by the same grief which is universal and has no colour."

17 comments:

Crushed said...

I thought the lines; 'The Italian Interior Minister has today reached agreement with the Tunisian government, which will take back its nationals' were interesting.

Two governments negotiating which one gets human beings that neither of them want.

It makes you think, doesn't it?

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

It certainly does, Crushed. Poor souls, and what are they going back to?

Betty (picture circa 1954) said...

Such a sad situation and I've never heard a word about it before.

MissB said...

I can only manage what a controversy this has to be for those on the island. We have the same thing happening in the U.S with Mexican and Cuban immigrants specifically. I can only imagine how this is magnified on an island. I hope a fairer solution can be found for all involved.

PinkAcorn said...

They must be terrified to go back and probably be treated even worse...

Hey, what was that coat rack thing?

Anne in Oxfordshire said...

Hi WL I am no heartless person, but I am with the residents of Lampedusa, so awful how their lives have been affected. If the centre can only accommodate 800 then thats what it should be. I would be in protest along side the residents and the mayor. ...Don't get me wrong, the immigrants do deserve a good life too..but why should people on a very small island suffer as well.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Betty. It is very sad and I can understand that you had not heard about it before as the situation on Lampedusa does not get the media coverage that similar situations in Spain and Malta get. Hi, Miss B. If only a fair solution could be found, all over the world. Hi, pink. You are probably right. Under an EU agreement, they cannot be sent back if their lives are at risk or if they are going to be ill-treated but who is going to know what happens to them? The coat rack thing was originally part of a decorated Sicilian cart. Hi, Anne. You are not heartles at all. I think it is impossible not to sympathise with the Lampedusans but my heart also goes out to those desperate enough to make this perilous journey.

Valleys Mam said...

Oh Welsh cakes what a sad situation, ad we have heard nothing of it
Poor souls taking such chances to escape to a better life and poorresidents having to suffer economically and socially because of it.
I hope it resolves quickly and humanely

CherryPie said...

It is very sad.

jams o donnell said...

What a grim situation. The conditions for the clandestini are obviously utterly inadequate; I doubt that Lampedusa has the infrastructure to support the detention centres. It's lose/lose for everyone directly concerned

Dr. Christopher Wood said...

It is such a shame because North Africa could be a booming economy - energy transformation from solar to electrical energy could turn N. Africa into a Saudi Arabia of electricity supply to Europe.

Then there's the huge biotech potential of North Africa.

One has to wonder why North Africa is not exploiting its resources - is it because outside investors are worried that if they invest they will be disenfranchised of their investments the moment they come on stream and generate profits?

It is so sad that the people suffer with low job prospects when they could be with good paying jobs which would render moot the perceived need to risk life and limb crossing seas to better their economic lot.

kyles said...

I love the priest's words...so very true and what a sad situation for all...xo

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

VM and Cherie: yes, it is heart-breaking and not widely reported outside Italy. jams, you are right. It just goes on and on, with no winners. That's very interesting, Dr CW. I didn't know any of that. Thank you. Hi, Kyles. Yes, I thought those were very appropriate words.

Wolfie said...

I really don't see an end to this situation any time soon, unless life in Europe gets substantially worse than North Africa of course.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

I fear you are right, Wolfie.

A'Jay said...

I agee with Crushed's comment Welshcakes... tis a no win for all involved... and at the heart of it people fleeing their country..

we have similar here where they are no longer allowed on Australian mainland but processed on an island...and they live in deplorable conditions... I dont know the answer but surely not sending them back to a country they are so desperately leaving... makes my heart sad

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, A'Jay. It is very sad for all concerned.

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