Arson attacks on Lampedusa and attempts to increase tensions.
Borderline Sicilia Onlus expresses its solidarity with the association Askavusa and the mayor Giusi Nicolini, both of whom have recently been the objects of intimidation. The intimidating behaviour is aimed at disrupting the important work they carry out which, on so many fronts, is currently enabling Lampedusa to go forward in these delicate times.
The intimidation seems to come as a result of comments Giusi Nicolini recently made in an interview. She stated that she hoped those arriving in Lampedusa did so alive and consequently the last few days have seen the mayor attacked on the internet with death threats and racist and fascist insults. She has already taken legal action against the comments made. Yesterday evening a boat which belonged to the association Askavusa was the victim of an arson attack. The boat was intended to be transformed into a active memorial but now there are just the burnt out remains and a note containing mafia style threats.
Report of events which took place in Lampedusa last night.
At around half past midnight, we received a phone call from Damiano Sferlazzo telling us that a fire had broken out on one of the boats belonging to the Casa della Fraternità. We went straight to the scene to find that the fire brigade had already put out the fire. Members of the Carabinieri, the parish priest and the deputy mayor were all present.
The fire officers informed the Carabinieri that the fire was started intentionally as there were no batteries on the boat and it was not possible that it could have been caused by a short circuit. The incident is therefore being treated as arson. After the fire was put out, the boat was found to be in quite poor condition: the cabin was completely burnt out, while the cover and the rest of the boat remain in a discrete condition. While the fire was being put out, some of the fire officers searched the surrounding area and found a note stating: “NO TO ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS FREE ON THE ISLAND. DO YOU UNDERSTAND…SEE YOU NEXT TIME….THE ARMED FREE LAMPEDUSA GROUP”.
Recent days have seen many reports of burglaries taking place, intentions have also been voiced to set up vigilante groups to patrol the island and neo-fascist groups have spoken out against the mayor Giusi Nicolini. It is clear that these tense episodes are evidence that Lampedusa is once again turning another horrible page of violence and intolerance against migrants. It is an intolerance which has been created in the boardrooms of the highest institutions with the absolute intention of turning Lampedusa into a place where people are imprisoned in inhumane conditions which, in turn, destroys the equilibrium of the local community which no longer has the spirit of tolerance but instead risks creating racist factions ready to defend the island to the bitter end.
Only yesterday, which marked the first anniversary of clashes between a group of Tunisians and a group of Lampedusans, an important exhibition was opened in Rome at the Museo Etnografico Pigorini. The association Askavusa presented the museum with an installation by Giacomo Sferlazzo and Costanza Ferrini entitled “La parola è bussola” (The word is a compass) and they spoke about creating a place of memorial on Lampedusa. While this was happening a group of cowards were setting the boat, which Askavusa had managed to get hold of with contributions by the Migrantes foundation and the help of the parish priest, on fire. Raised tensions amongst the forty Tunisians currently on the island have been noted in the past couple of days. There have been a number of forced entries and reported thefts of scooters, yet there are no certainties over the executors of these crimes.
As an association, we are always in favour of the free circulation of individuals and we think that what is happening on Lampedusa is yet another attempt to increase tensions between Lampedusans and migrants. We believe that with the presence of relatively few migrants, managing the general situation should not pose any significant problems, especially as there is an extremely elevated police and military presence on the island. We will continue to go on as we have always done, asserting that there can always be a different reality and an alternative version of events not only in the case of immigration, but in all aspects of life. We will not tolerate acts of intimidation from anyone and we will fear no-one, especially those who are cowards. Giacomo Sferlazzo, Ass. culturale ASKAVUSA, Lampedusa.