Open letter from the Mayor of Lampedusa to the European Union

“I am the new Mayor of the islands of Lampedusa and Linosa.

I was
elected in May, and from then until the 3rd November, 21 drowned bodies of
people who were trying to reach Lampedusa have been delivered to me. This, for
me, is something intolerable. Lampedusa now bears an enormous burden of pain. We
have had to go through the Prefecture to ask other boroughs for help in order
to provide the last 11 corpses with a dignified burial as we have no more sites
available. I know there will be others that we will bury, but I have one
question which I must address to everyone: just how large exactly does the
cemetery on my island need to be?

I am not
able to understand how such a tragedy can be considered normal. Last Saturday
the bodies of 8 young women and two boys aged 11 and 13 were recovered from the
sea. They were on a journey that was meant to be the beginning of a new life. How is it possible that the fact that 11 people
can just die together like that, cease to have an impact on daily life? 76 people were rescued but there were 115 people
altogether, the number of deaths is always a much higher number than what the
sea actually returns to us.

I am full of indignation about the acclimatization that seems to have
contaminated everyone. I am scandalised by Europe’s
silence, which can only be exacerbated by the fact it has just recently been
awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace yet continues to stay silent over a tragedy
that is now reaching figures more commonly associated with war. I am becoming
more and more convinced that European policy on immigration sees this toll of
human lives as a means to moderate the flow, if not as an actual deterrent. If
the journey by boat is the only possibility of hope that these people have, I
believe that Europe should be ashamed and
disgraced by the deaths which occur at sea.

In all of this extremely sad page of history
that we are writing together, the only reason for any pride is provided by the
men of the Italian
State who save lives 140 miles from Lampedusa.
This is what happened last Saturday, even though those who were only 30 miles away from the
scene of the disaster and who should have gone immediately with the fast patrol
ships that our previous government gave to Gaddafi, ignored the request for help. The patrol boats, nonetheless, work
very well when given orders to kidnap our fishing boats, even when they are
fishing outside Lybian territorial waters.

Everyone has to realise that it is Lampedusa, and its inhabitants, with
the structures providing rescue and reception, which give human dignity to
these people, and who also give dignity to our country and Europe
as a whole. So, if these deaths remain solely Lampedusa’s responsibility, I
would like to receive a telegram of condolence for every drowned body we
receive- as if it had white skin, as if it were one of our own children who had
drowned whilst on holiday.”
Giusi Nicolini