Report from Lampedusa 30.9. – 2.10.2011

It’s been since yesterday
that many tourists have left and we are trying to further understand the needs
of Askavusa and the Lampedusans in general. We spoke with the Askavusa
association, who have discussed their intention to launch a new festival for
New year ( from the 28/12 to the 2/01) as part of the campaign “Io vado a
Lampedusa” to attract responsible tourism for the winter, setting their sights
on a huge concert, with traditional locally sourced food, collaborating with
the solidarity brigades.

There are still many doubts
on the feasibility of the idea, but this is the manifestation that the
association would like better assistance for, as it would allow them to obtain
a positive concrete result for the island. Askavusa has been working hard to
obtain funds for a permanent immigration museum since 2005. They want something
which aims to value the shipwrecks and commemorate objects which are discovered
on the migrant boats from a historical and artistic point of view. The
Department of Culture on Lampedusa has not only never given an answer, but has
even copied the idea of the project delivered by Giacomo Sferlazzo ( I think in
2008) by presenting a new project in a private villa in Rome for an immigration
museum. Their plans didn’t involve Askavusa but other subjects and artists from
different parts of the world. The project is already financed by Parliament, the
(Sicilian) Regional Government and maybe other entities. Giacomo found out what
had happened by chance, he went to the presentation and denounced the
situation. He states that the Assessor is expropriating the Lampedusans of an
important project for the potentiality of the inhabitants and that he can
precisely and punctually demonstrate what he says. It’s possible to watch the
video of this presentation on Facebook. The association intends to proceed via
legal means to repossess the propriety of the project.

Furthermore the young
members of Askavusa pay €400 a month for the rent and complain about the
complete lack of services, social spaces and places for recreational activities
for youths. The adolescents often spend their time playing video games, or else
hang about in the street and furthermore the only secondary school present has
impractical sections, which means the students have to do evening shifts to
attend the lessons. The teenagers of Askavusa would like to set up a rehearsal
room for musicians and they are discussing which places they could use to carry
out the project. They have already tried to ask the Council for help in the
past, they have collected signatures (for a skate park for example) but their
requests have never been taken into consideration. Moreover there aren’t even
subsidies to continue with their studies outside the island or to access the
national health service (for example, giving birth is a very expensive).

The O’Scia Festival has
come to a close, the Lampedusans have demonstrated that even this year they are
very appreciative towards Baglioni and the organisers. Nevertheless the
references to the migratory phenomenon and what has happened, have been really
superficial and poor. Baglioni commented on the difficult period the island has
foreseen, saying that he has had the merit to make the Lampedusan community
rediscover the importance of staying united when facing difficult times,
respect towards the other, fraternity towards all human beings; an actor read a
passage from Martin Luther King and in a video Franco Battiato read some verses
from an Arab Sicilian poet, lbn Hamd†s, from the XI century.

So many artists have
expressed their closeness to the Lampedusans and have praised the island,
saying how it makes them proud to be Italian. The praise of the Lampedusans has
been the main theme of the festival, together with continued references to the
differences between North and South. There were few references to the
conditions of less fortunate countries of the world, to the countries at war
and reception, but many people complained that a festival organised for the
migrants and cross culture dedicated so little space to the theme.

While the festival was
coming to a close you could hear the sirens of police cars, as rumours of new
landings of clandestine migrants started to circulate.

Overall the elder members
of the community are worried and convinced that these people end up robbing for
food in the end. The reality is that it was a Tunisian fishing boat that was
having difficulty at sea and needed to be rescued. A cultural mediator from
Save the Children assured me that the centre is completely empty. It was only
on the 29th or 28th that 22 Tunisian migrants disembarked in Linosa and after
spending some time at a sports hall, they were transferred to other centres.

Also the Save the Children
employee was in the refugee camps between Libya
and Tunisia with a project
in May and while he was there, he encountered the same friends he had met 5
years ago during his trip from Eritrea
to Europe. Those comrades unfortunately hadn’t
made it and were still there.

I even met a Tunisian boy,
who arrived in January and benefits from humanitarian protection now. A priest
has helped him and he now produces and sells ceramics. He supports Ghannouci
and was a member of a political party we are unable to identify. As far as we
know, the priest has condemned the recent violence in his sermons and often
praises the Reception. Unfortunately the church has been broken into twice and
there are suspicions that it malicious.

Daniela Caldarella
Palermo Anti-Racist Forum