“I’m the new mayor of the islands of Lampedusa and Linosa. I was elected in May and on 3 November 21 cadavers were consigned to me. These are people who have drowned while they were attempting to reach Lampedusa and for me this is something that is unbearable. For Lampedusa it’s an enormous burden of sadness. Going through the Prefecture, we’ve had to ask for help from the mayors of the province so as to be able to give a dignified burial to the last 11 bodies, because our cemetery has no more spaces available. We will create more spaces. But I’m asking everyone this question: how big does the cemetery of my island have to be? I cannot understand how such a tragedy can be considered normal. How is it possible to remove from everyday life, the idea, for example, that 11 people, including 8 really young women and two kids aged 11 and 13 can die all together as happened last Saturday, during a voyage that should have been the beginning of a new life for them? 76 of them were saved but there were 115 in all. The number of those who died is always much larger than the number of bodies that are given back by the sea.
I’m outraged by the normalcy that seemed to have spread to everyone like contagion. I am scandalised by the silence of Europe that has just received the Nobel Peace Prize and yet is staying silent in the face of a massacre that has the numbers of a true war. I’m becoming more convinced that European policy on immigration considers this offering of human lives to be a way to restrict the flows of people, or maybe a deterrent. But, if for these people, the voyage on the boats is still the only possibility of hope, I believe that their death at sea must be a reason for Europe to feel shamed and dishonoured. In all this really sad page of our history that we are all writing right now, the only reason we have to be proud is offered every day by the men of the Italian State who save human lives at a distance of 140 miles from Lampedusa, while those who were just 30 miles from the people who were shipwrecked, as happened last Saturday, and who should have rushed with their really fast speed boats that our previous government gifted to Gaddafi, ignored their request for help. Those same speed boats are effectively used to sequester our fishing boats, even when these are fishing outside Libyan territorial waters. Everyone must know that it is Lampedusa, with its inhabitants, with the units dedicated to providing assistance and hospitality, that is giving the dignity of human beings to these people, that is giving dignity to our country and to the whole of Europe. Well then, if these people are just ours, I want to receive telegrams of condolence after each drowned person is consigned to me. As though they had white skin, as though each one was someone’s son who drowned while on holiday.”
The corpses that are arriving every day on the beaches Lampedusa have become an ordinary news item, as regular as a high tide. Italy is the landing zone for the boats of hope. Everyone knows where these migrants come from and why they are obliged to leave their homelands, but nobody does anything. Italy has been left alone to tackle the desperation of Africa, while Europe looks on, as though the tragedy didn’t have anything to do with the continent, as though it weren’t partially responsible with the plunder of African resources by the multinationals, with the sale of arms and the support of dictatorial governments, with non-intervention, with “lassez faire” in the face of an enormous tragedy like that of Darfur or with the neocolonial wars in Libya and elsewhere. Someone who flees from the inferno, ever more frequently, is ending up in Lampedusa’s cemetery that by now has no free spaces left.