Published by Mediterranea's board | 14 / Sep / 2023

Lampedusa: how to create an 'emergency'

The situation in Lampedusa, with more lives lost at sea, including that of little Traore Mama, with more than seven thousand people trapped in a hotspot that can only hold ten times that number, with charges and truncheons being thrown at people in the dock who are exhausted after a journey in which they have risked their lives, with water bottles being thrown at thirsty crowds, all of this is not only unacceptable, it could and should have been avoided.

This could and should be avoided in advance by a necessary and courageous change in Italian and European migration policy and, finally, by the opening of safe and legal entry channels into the EU.

But it could and should be avoided in the immediate future. As the mayor of the island, Mannino, says, the rapid transfer of people to Sicily should not only be improved, but also made more effective by the use of military and civilian ships and planes. Instead of wasting time and money chasing phantom and inhumane agreements with traffickers and militias to keep women, men and children in lagers, the government should provide large military ships capable of transferring thousands of people to the island every day.

But it is also an emergency constructed from the point of view of the organisation of rescue at sea: starting with the decision to keep coastguard vessels and European navies out of Libyan and Tunisian waters in order to give free rein to arrests, rejections and deportations. In fact, the withdrawal of the area of operations close to the island and the use of patrol boats with little boarding space and little autonomy means that the only possible landing place is Lampedusa itself. If more capable vessels such as the Diciotti, Dattilo and Gregoretti or naval units were deployed off the coast, more people could be rescued in a timely manner and transferred directly to the mainland, first and foremost reducing the risk of sinking, which unfortunately continues to cause deaths even a short distance from the pier. An operation along the lines of Mare Nostrum, which the Italian government and the European institutions do not want to carry out for political and propaganda reasons, condemning Lampedusa to become the scene of a cleverly staged emergency.

The numbers of people arriving by sea are the same as in 2016. What has changed, however, is that there is no longer a widespread, decent and effective first and second reception system, which has been dismantled in recent years by the very people who are now in government.

The resistance of the men and women on the move and the solidarity of the Lampedusans who have thrown themselves into the water to help, who have offered food and water to the migrants stranded on the streets, is a great example for everyone, a lesson in humanity that the politicians on the island who are constantly campaigning would do well to follow.

Today in Lampedusa there will be a public mourning for little Traore Mama, and we join in the mourning and remembrance of all the lives lost at sea, as well as the resistance of and by the migrants, and the solidarity of and with the people of Lampedusa.

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