‘Journalists take pictures and nothing changes’

On hearing about the deaths off the Italian island of Lampedusa last month, I was struck by the prescience of these words. Yasin, who made the comment, was Eritrean, like many of those who died. He made the same journey and survived.

lampedusa_italy

A refugee’s Libyan nightmare

Before the Arab Spring, before the Tunisian people rose up in anger, Lampedusa was silent. The stream of sub-Saharan African refugees and migrants who once used the sleepy island as a port of entry to Europe have disappeared. For the Italian island’s 6,000 inhabitants, visitors are once again moneyed tourists and not destitute explorers.

A boat carrying refugees from Tunisia arrives on the Italian island of Lampedusa.

Italy’s Libyan solution

Jan/Feb 2011 In 2008 nearly 40,000 migrants entered Europe through Lampedusa, a tiny Italian island in the Mediterranean with a population of 6,000. During this period people migrating from all over Africa chose to enter Europe via Italian and Spanish islands in the Mediterranean, despite the deaths at sea of the thousands who had come before them. At this time Lampedusa had also gained a reputation for its overcrowded reception centres – in one centre 1,800 people shared a space meant for 850 – and chaotic immigration administration. Like several other European countries, Italy’s panicked reaction to irregular migration often…