Report from Lampedusa 16-19 October 2011

There is currently a hostile climate on the island of Lampedusa. Some consider the fact that the port has been declared unsafe as positive as it will help prevent likely clashes and moments of tension. Some Lampedusans believe the Tunisians will not come back because they have learnt their lesson and that the use of the prison ships was the right thing for the Italian government to do. Furthermore, some Lampedusans are spreading the theory that the humanitarian organisations, in addition to being responsible for the disruption and the fighting on the island, are also the sole reason for which boats are arriving on the island. Many are convinced the humanitarian organisations manage the distribution of food within the centre. The Lampedusan voices reveal a great deal of confusion over things that have really happened and things which have not; between clichés and facts; a lot of which is surely due to the great tiredness and frustration of many.
The tourist season was bad during June and July, but much better in August and September. There are currently tourists from north Italy on the island.
Restaurants and hotels are still awaiting payments from the Ministry of the Interior. There is an atmosphere of deep resentment. During the riots of the 22 and 23 September, the walls near the Favaolo harbour and the Maritime Station were adorned with sentences such as, “Free Lampedusa, go away”. They have since been painted over or removed by other citizens.
Acnur and Oim together with the Red Cross are the only organisations currently present on the island. Many of those employed by LampedusAccogliena have recently lost their jobs and have not received wages for the past four months. The Contrada Imbriacola Centre is currently unable to take in more than 200 people as 3 of its buildings are uninhabitable. After the 23 October (the date of the Tunisian elections) it will be decided whether it will be necessary to carry out restructuring work in order for them to begin functioning again. The mobile unit is still present on the island. No work has yet begun at the Loran centre.
At sea there remains much activity: patrol boats and helicopters. In fact, as the election draws ever nearer, many of the Tunisians believe there will be less surveillance at sea and therefore it will be easier for boats to cross. Rumours are circulating amongst fishermen, of a boat with 200 Tunisians aboard. If true it will likely be a refoulement case.
Forum Anti-Racist Palermo