Italy’s far proper turns the refugee disaster in Lampedusa to its benefit. Italy

Days after the autumn of Italy’s authorities, Matteo Salvini, the chief of the far-right League get together, started to organize his election marketing campaign for the upcoming nationwide elections in the identical approach he is aware of it: by focusing on refugees.

First he began a sequence of publish on twitter He attributed the reviews of crimes and rapes to what he described as “pretend refugees”. Then, final week, Salvini, a former inside minister who took high-profile steps to dam the arrival of asylum seekers at Italian ports, arrived in Lampedusa.

This tiny island within the central Mediterranean has not too long ago obtained a wave of refugee boats which have elevated the capability of its reception centre. “Italy shouldn’t be the refugee camp of Europe,” he stated throughout his go to. “It is embarrassing. However Italians will vote quickly and should flip a web page.”

Because the fires of political rallies develop, the message is plainly clear: the refugee disaster is again and so are the best wingers desperate to capitalize on it.

The arrival of asylum seekers from Africa is ready to play a decisive position within the Italian elections on 25 September. Descendants of the Neofascist Italian Social Motion (MSI), Salvini’s far-right League and descendants of Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, are tipped to win a coalition led by the Brothers of Italy. The coalition’s candidate for PM is the brother of Italy’s Giorgia Meloni, who might develop into the nation’s first far-right chief since Mussolini and who as soon as stated Italians have to “carry migrants again to their international locations after which save them”. Have to sink boats”.

Surprisingly, the far proper’s transfer appears to be working in Lampedusa, as soon as well-known for welcoming migrants. Within the 2019 EU elections, the league received round 46% of the vote. Final June, residents, who’ve accused Italian authorities of abandoning them, elected a league deputy mayor.

For an concept of ​​how the island turned a bastion of anti-immigration politics, a 2016 nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize for Solidarity with Asylum Seekers, one solely wants to go to the native reception middle.

Within the warmth of August, tons of of sub-Saharan and North African asylum seekers lie breathless on mattresses within the shade of pine bushes as a result of there isn’t a room inside. As hundreds of vacationers benefit from the island’s seashores, Nigerian and Senegalese kids below the age of two are ready to be transferred to the mainland among the many welcome middle’s waste. The ability can deal with 380 individuals, however has struggled in current weeks.

“For the reason that starting of the 12 months, the island has taken in about 20,000 individuals,” says Giovanni D’Ambrosio, social employee in Lampedusa for Mediterranean Hope, a venture conceived by the Federation of Evangelical Church buildings to offer assist to refugees. Is. “Thirty-one boats got here a day on 25 July and 1,050 individuals got here ashore on 30 July. However this isn’t the primary time that Lampedusa has been pressured to take care of such an intense interval of arrival.

Overcrowding on the refugee facility in Lampedusa. {Photograph}: Roberto Salomon / The Observer

In 2015, on the top of the refugee disaster, greater than 21,000 asylum seekers descended on Lampedusa. The island, recognized for its crystalline waters, was already the primary port of arrival for migrants, and a tragic theater for deaths at sea.

Two years in the past, on 3 October 2013, a couple of miles from Lampedusa, a fishing boat carrying 440 asylum seekers from Eritrea and Somalia capsized after a hearth. Not less than 368 individuals died. Pictures of tons of of coffins in rows in a hangar on the island went world wide. It was probably the most dramatic shipwreck as much as that point. Sadly, extra will observe, as native fishermen dive into the water to avoid wasting the individuals.

As Hungary, Greece and Croatia took drastic measures to disrupt the motion of asylum seekers, movie administrators, actors, prime ministers and even the pope turned to the merciful aspect of Europe. started to pay common visits to Lampedusa to see the

“Lampedusa had develop into a worldwide instance of welcome,” stated Giucci Nicolini, mayor of Lampedusa from 2012 to 2017. Observer, Nicolini obtained UNESCO’s Felix Hauffouet-Bogen Peace Prize for the “nice humanity and continued dedication” with which he managed the disaster. “The migrants had been free to stroll on the island with none drawback. Rescue operations had been led by Mare Nostrum, a navy intervention to humanitarian ends initiated by Italian authorities with the intention of stopping tragedies. The asylum seekers had been rescued at sea and safely transferred to Italy earlier than being taken to locations throughout Europe. It was all figuring out fairly properly.”

It does not final. The far proper characterised the arrival of individuals looking for asylum as an “invasion”. Mare Nostrum was finally recaptured by Operation Triton, which aimed extra at patrolling the Mediterranean than saving lives. In an effort to cease the circulation, Italy struck a take care of the Libyan Coast Guard that allowed it to return asylum seekers to a rustic the place they face torture and abuse.

map of lampedusa

Lampedusa, which has an space of ​​slightly below 8 sq. miles, lacks the assets to handle hundreds of arrivals over an extended interval. The island’s hospital has no maternity services: pregnant girls are pressured to journey to Sicily a month earlier than their due date. Residents are additionally grappling with a scarcity of potable water, an unreliable waste administration system and a scarcity of jobs.

“I’ve six kids,” says Domenico Cucina, 75, a fisherman in Lampedusa. “Three had been born right here with none well being help. It was a chance. I’ve coronary heart drawback. It takes hours to achieve the mainland by helicopter. Roads are crumbling, and we do not have fundamental providers. Lampedusa shouldn’t be able to deal with the arrival of those individuals.”

The despair of the inhabitants turns into despair, after which turns into anger, which helps the acute authority.

Final June, Attilio Lucia, a youth activist and member of the league, well-known for his stay Fb broadcast from the island’s port during which he opposes the arrival, was elected deputy mayor of Lampedusa. “We now have to finish the arrivals instantly and assist these individuals of their international locations,” Lucia stated. Observer, “The EU has to consider the individuals of Lampedusa who’ve been struggling these arrivals for 30 years. Had been exhausted.”

A number of years in the past, residents erected a memorial in Piazza Piave to recollect those that died within the shipwreck of October 2013. It is without doubt one of the few monuments devoted to migrants nonetheless standing. Others have been torn down or destroyed.

In 2020, the “Migrant Boat Cemetery”, a key image of the migration disaster, set ablaze what was described as a politically motivated assault, together with tons of of dilapidated boats left behind by asylum seekers over time Went. Three days earlier, the Gateway to Europe (Porta di Europa) monument, designed in 2008 by artist Mimo Paladino as a memorial to the migrants who died whereas trying the crossing, got here in plastic baggage. Was wrapped by vandals.

Giucci Nicolini, the former head of Lampedusa, next to a monument by Italian artist Mimmo Paladino, is dedicated to the memory of migrants who lost their lives trying to reach Europe.
Subsequent to the monument by Italian artist Mimmo Paladino is Giucci Nicolini, the previous head of Lampedusa, devoted to the reminiscence of the migrants who misplaced their lives attempting to achieve Europe. {Photograph}: Roberto Salomon / The Observer

Through the years, the fragile metallic fence surrounding the reception middle was bolstered with a deep moat after which a excessive wall: a improvement virtually parallel with repressive EU legal guidelines that stop the arrival of refugees throughout its borders. At this time, the migrant facility in Lampedusa resembles Guantanamo Bay, with dozens of surveillance cameras and sentry containers.

“Solely a minority of those persons are surviving the warfare,” Salvini stated throughout his go to to the reception middle earlier than resting in Berlusconi’s luxurious villa in Lampedusa. “We now have to return to defend Italy. Extra immigrants arrived in July alone than in 2019. We can’t open Italy’s doorways to hundreds of unlawful immigrants.

Practically 20,000 individuals have been killed or lacking since 2014 within the central Mediterranean Sea, which is the deadliest and unsafest path to Europe and one of many world’s deadliest borders. A whole lot of our bodies recovered at sea haven’t been recognized.

“It is not Salvini that bothers me,” stated Nicolini. “It’s the events that opposed Salvini that offended me. The left contributed to the introduction of repressive migrant insurance policies. And that is the Lampedusa at the moment: the failure of repressive measures in Europe that pretends to not perceive That even after so a few years nobody will cease individuals from coming right here.

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