Lampedusa. For over 20 years thousands of migrants from Africa crosses this tiny Italian island, in the middle of the Mediterranean sea, the Southernmost point of Europe. Lampedusa is not their destination, but their landing place, the supposed threshold to a better future: in Italy or in the rest of Europe.
According to Frontex, the European agency for border management, over 64000 arrivals have been counted for the whole year 2011 between Lampedusa and Malta. From January to March alone over 20000 Tunisians, mainly young men, arrived in Lampedusa running away from the revolution. Between March and August 2011, over 40000 Sub-Saharans landed on Lampedusa’s shores, escaping from the war in Libya. In 2013 mostly Syrians, Eritreans and Somali made landfall on this rock in the middle of the Mediterranean sea.
A plot of stories determined by International historic moments (war, revolutions, famine, persecutions, international agreements) lands on the little island in an incessant cycle. Lampedusa awaits. It rescues its temporary guests and, sometimes, it becomes a prison. The first of the so called ‘Fortress Europe’. The cycle only stops when the odyssey of people pursuing a better future becomes tragedy. The grievous one occurred the 3rd October 2013, when 366 Eritreans lost their lives near Lampedusa coasts when their boat suddenly capsized. The sea, when it does not save you, swallows you.
This tragedy opened a big debate on the role of the European Union, and of the Frontex agency, in the rescue and safeguard of migrants in the sea. The main questions remain: who can ben considered guilty? Do we need to protect a border? Can we do more, as Europeans, in the country of origins of migrants?
Watch also Lampedusa Odyssey in the Multimedia section.