Tuesday, June 21, 2011


Although Italy has been requesting EU help with regard to the migration situation on Lampedusa since the beginning of this year, it has taken a visit from Angelina Jolie, in her capacity as a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador, for the BBC to send out a journalist of the calibre of Zeinab Badawi and for the constant migrant arrivals on the island to make international headlines.

Visiting Lampedusa on Monday - World Refugee Day - Miss Jolie, accompanied by UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres, insisted, upon entering the Identification and Deportation Centre, on having her fingerprints taken, as all migrant arrivals there do.  In a speech she thanked Italy for keeping its borders open and the Lampedusani for their kindness towards the migrants.  Later, speaking to Badawi, Miss Jolie said that diversity, far from being a phenomenon to be feared, is a beautiful thing.

The "boat loads of sorrow", of course, continue to arrive and you may imagine the consternation of the Italian authorities last week when they realised that one of these was carrying a sheep.  At first the boat's passengers told the Italians that they had brought the animal along to assure a supply of milk for the children on board but later it emerged that it could have been made to travel in readiness for a celebratory meal or even as a joke.  Sadly the adventure was no joke for the animal, who was put down because Italian vets said they could not risk an outbreak of foot and mouth disease on the island.  The authorities identified, on the same boat, two Tunisians who had only been deported from Lampedusa the previous week and this reinforced the police officers' conclusion that the sheep had been transported as some sort of prank.   Are these young men foolhardy or daring and brave?  What do you think?

Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni, speaking at the same time as Angelina Jolie, drew huge applause from the crowd on Lampedusa when he mentioned his own hard line on immigration.  Now the Lampedusani await the promised boost to tourism that Mr Berlusconi has promised them as a result of his purchase of a villa on the island.  The Premier was unable to sign a contract for the purchase of his original choice of island home because the location of the house posed security problems but the Italian media is reporting that the purchase of a different villa will be concluded next week.

Meanwhile defecting Libyan army personnel have declared their intention of sailing for the island.

My own hope is that the Jolie visit to Lampedusa raises awareness and obtains worldwide media coverage for the migration crisis.

Porta d'Europa, Lampedusa

You can see part of Zeinab Badawi's interview with Angelina Jolie here.


Whispering Walls said...

She may say that but what's happening to those migrants - for how long are they left in detention centres?

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, WW. They are being transferred to other detention centres in Italy as quickly as possible now but can spend several weeks in these. The usual outcome is deportation.

RNSANE said...

How can this town accomodate so many refugees? I realize that one wants to offer humanitarian relief but Italy cannot absorb all those fleeing Libya!

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Carmen. It's a small island and you're right - it cannot accommodate them all. Italy needs EU help.


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