Saturday, 1 October 2011

Lampedusa: Managing the landing

Lampedusa, a small island off the coast of Southern Italy is only about 7.8 square miles (20.2 sq.kilometres) in area and has a native population of about 4,500 people. Yet, it is believed that by August 2011, some 48,000 undocumented migrants had already landed on the island. Some believed that they were trying to flee the violence and unrest in North Africa especially Libya and Tunisia. Others assumed that they were regular economic migrants trying to find a route into Europe.

The boats used to cross the seas are always overcrowded, to the point where 25 people choked to death on one such crossing. In April, some 150 people drowned when their boat capsized and it is believed that for every 25 migrants who do make the crossing safely, 1 person does not. 

On landing, the passengers are immediately escorted off the boats to a Detention Centre. Unfortunately, the centre was built for only 850 people but has been used to house upto 2000 inmates at a time. The UN refugee agency had warned that the situation at the centre was getting tense, with prolonged detentions and lack of action to determine whether individuals qualified for asylum or not. On September 21st, tensions came to a head and riots broke out between migrants clashing with residents and the police. As a result, the Italian government vowed to transfer all migrants off the island within 48 hours.

Here is a video taken by one of our members who has been working in Lampedusa documenting the migrant crisis. The video, taken last April, shows the procedure when a boat full of migrants lands at Lampedusa.

An article about Lampedusa by the film-maker is featured in the September issue of the New Internationalist. Click below to view the scanned article at a larger size.

Author: Shahana Dastidar

1 comment: