Report from Lampedusa 10th-12th October 2011

I came to Lampedusa on
Saturday. It was a day when many boats arrived- seven in total, between 10h00
and 22h00. All together around 600 people arrived on the island. They joined
the 500 already present in the two centres, which makes 1100 people being held,
whilst awaiting to be identified and then either transferred to Immigrant
Detention Centres (CIEs) or repatriated.

Sunday saw yet another boat arrive at
around 4am, whilst another carrying 36 migrants arrived on Linosa. Both of the
boats had Tunisian migrants only aboard. There were very few women and
children. Given that the Tunisians do not have access to asylum procedures, this
new influx has seen the Lampedusan Centres all but be transformed into CIEs. The
riots which occurred a few days ago have now subsided, but a sense of unrest remains
within the centres due to the sheer number of migrants present and the rigid
attitudes which are being held, particularly towards some of the Tunisians. The
everyday inefficiency of those running the centre, who go some way to covering
up their intentions to humiliate and break these people, along with their
exclusive interest in minimising costs and maximising profits, is also
contributing to the unrest. The conditions of the women and the girls (Nigerian
and Tunisian minors) is particularly vulnerable due to levels of promiscuity
within the centre. It is highly likely that they are being subjected to sexual
exploitation in exchange for protection and favours. All tourists have more or
less left the island now. The Lampedusans continually complain about the poor
and interrupted tourist season. Those most enlightened attribute at least some
of the blame to the lack of political intervention which did little to cap
flight prices (particularly for flights from Milan). Many are angry with the journalists.
A group of German film makers who were with me were assaulted and insulted by a
group of 16-17 year olds when attempting to film the arrival of one of the
boats carrying migrants. They believed that maybe the teenagers did not want to
be filmed, instead the girls were furious about journalists destroying the
image of their island and putting their livelihoods at risk. In other (not
rare) incidents, the blame has clearly been place on the migrants, “It’s
either them or me. If I see one I’ll shoot” (said one Lampedusan at the
airport).The opinion that the sub Saharan Africans are good people who are in
difficulty while the vast majority of the Tunisians are dangerous ex- convicts
without scruples, is widespread. The group of German film makers will remain on
the island until next week and may be able to provide further updates and
general information on the situation.

Alice Pugliese

Palermo Anti-Racist Forum