Sunday, March 20, 2011


As the eyes of the world shift from Japan to Libya, the inhabitants of the beleaguered island of Lampedusa have a new worry:  the possibility of a Libyan airstrike there in retaliation for the Italian government's decision to allow NATO planes to take off from Sicily in the Coalition action against the Gaddafi régime.   Colonel Gaddafi tried to bomb Lampedusa back in 1986 after the American bombing of Tripoli and Benghazi but the Scud missiles, aimed at a US Coast Guard navigation station on the island, landed in the sea.

If you did not realise how close Sicily is to the North African coast, take a look at the map.  Lampedusa lies just 183.1 miles from Tripoli and its position is the reason why 11,000 North African migrants have landed there since January.

The people of Lampedusa have been overwhelmed by the sheer number of migrants arriving on their shore: The Cie [Identification and Expulsion Centre] on the island, built for 750 people, is currently housing almost 4,000 desperate souls.  New arrivals on Friday - Saturday night had to sleep on the quayside  and, with the Cie running short of basic supplies, the islanders, already worried about a decrease in tourist bookings, now dread a health emergency.  The Red Cross has declared the situation on the island "unacceptable".

On Friday many Lampedusani demonstrated in their two harbours, blocking the quays and today they successfully stopped the docking of an Italian ship carrying equipment for the tendopoli [tent city] proposed by the Italian government.  The Mayor of Lampedusa, Dino de Rubeis, says that the island's citizens will not allow the tendopoli to be built and he has instead asked the government to send a naval ship to accommodate some of the migrants.  He has also requested that the passengers of any other migrant boats sailing for the island be transferred directly to Cie in other parts of Italy.

Sicily has its own history of emigration and its people usually understand those who are seeking a better life but the people of Lampedusa are at the end of their tether.  There are reports of notices in bars stating that migrants are unwelcome and this, if true, goes against a long Sicilian  tradition of fellow-feeling for the immigrant.    

Some demonstators on Lampedusa, their sense of humour clearly not having deserted them, have been holding banners giving the exact longitude and latitude of their island and beseeching Colonel Gaddafi to aim at it accurately:

"Colonel, don't miss this time. That way our suffering will be over."


Rosaria Williams said...

These situations get more and more complex, so many people affected one way or another.

Thanks for the update.

jams o donnell said...

It's a ghastly situation. The Italian government needs to something more constructive than let the immigrants languish on an island where the facilities are clearly inadequate

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Rosaria. I really fear the long-term consequences of this situation, in so many parts of the world. Hi, jams. Well, to be fair, no one here could have predicted the uprisings in the Arab world. The Italian government needs to help Sicily deal with this crisis but the EU also needs to step in.

Patricia said...

Che peccato! What a terrible situation for both the immigrants and the island. We have many immigrants in California and there are so many sides to the efforts of meeting the needs that result. It gets difficult when the infrastructure becomes overloaded and cannot accommodate the numbers.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Patricia. Yes, a terribly difficult situation for all concerned.

Woman on a Raft said...

Many thanks for the update.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hello and welcome, Woman on a Raft.

James Higham said...

Lampedusa goes on and on and on. We won't even start to mention the attitude of the north towards the south in Italy.

Can't see the EU stepping in because, of course, they're only interested in power in western Europe. They'd consider this a local matter.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, James. Yes, better not to get started on that one! I think the EU just sees it as Italy's problem whereas it should concern us all.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

It is interesting to read about this from your perspective, Pat, as we don't see enough about this on our news. I think most countries welcome the causes of refugees but still have control their numbers as to not overwhelm their hosts. The US have have had ta similar situation with Haitian refuges overwhelming Florida.

Other countries should step in to offer some help in aid and refuge.


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