Street brawls on Lampedusa as migrants fight over who can leave

The First Reception Centre on Lampedusa

la Repubblica, by ALESSANDRA ZINITI- Following Monday afternoon’s tense situation between the Somalis and Eritreans which resulted in a fight breaking out, this morning the migrants had to decide amongst themselves who, after 13 days, would take the few places aboard the boat for mainland Sicily. The mayor Giusi Nicolini said of the situation: “There are still 763 refugees here, 80 of whom are minors. They are staying in a centre designed to accommodate 300 people.”

Tensions are still running high on Lampedusa after a fight broke out in the Reception Centre on Monday afternoon which left seven refugees injured. More brawls were seen this morning between migrants on the streets of Lampedusa. The situation intensified after the migrants learnt that the ship which will transport some of them on to Sicily had arrived. Fights broke out in front of locals. “It’s an intolerable situation, we are tired and worried, we’ve gone back to what the situation was like under the Berlusconi government,” said Totò Martello the President the Hotelier Association.

Martello highlighted the fact that in the Lampedusa Centre there are still around 850 migrants who are “free to come and go because there are no controls in place, and also because at the Carabinieri Headquarters there are only approximately 30 military police who are unable to deal with this emergency situation alone.” There are spaces for 48 migrants on the ship.
“Also the migrants are tired. The brawls broke out over who would get the places on the boat. They have all been waiting here for weeks. Thirteen days have passed since we last saw a ship to take migrants to the mainland.”
On Monday afternoon, the violence broke out among a group of migrants during a football match: Somalis vs Eritreans. They ended up throwing stones at each other and beating each other with sticks. It was almost a type of “warfare” between the refugees themselves. Further similar scenes have also been reported in recent weeks. This one ended with seven of them needing medical treatment while the Carabinieri sought to keep the violence from spreading in the Centre. But the situation on Lampedusa remains one of absolute Emergency. The island’s mayor Giusi Nicolini stated, “There are still 763 refugees here, 80 of whom are minors and they are staying in a centre designed to accommodate 300. We have been speaking out against the conditions in which these people are being forced to live for some time now. All of which has only been made worse by the onset of winter. They have been there for weeks, months, half locked up. They have absolutely nothing to do. Often they get drunk and what happened yesterday afternoon has already happened on more than more previous occasion. We call once again upon the Minister of the Interior, Cancellieri to ask for immediate intervention. We cannot be left to deal with this alone.”
Father Moses Zerai is the most recent voice to speak out against such incidents of violence within the Centre. Director of the Habeschia Agency, Father Zerai provides support to SubSaharan refugees. He received a phone call from a woman within the Centre asking him for help as she was in fear of her safety following an incident where the Centre’s 300 Somalis attacked the 60 Christian Eritreans and Ethiopians with bottles, knives and iron bars.
The religious leader is now asking the Italian Authorities for immediate intervention in order to separate the two groups. “None of the guests should be having their lives placed in danger,” he said. “The Eritrean and Ethiopian women are currently refusing to enter the Centre for fear of being attacked. The authorities must fully fulfil their responsibilities to protect these people and remove every morsel of intolerance and religious discrimination. It is not acceptable that such things can happen in a Centre which comes under the Ministry of the Interior. It is not acceptable that no one is doing anything to alleviate the situation of overcrowding and dire living conditions in this Centre on Lampedusa. We appeal to the government to intervene straight away to avoid any of the asylum seekers in the Centre being exposed to any danger.”