Why Lampedusa remains an island of hope for migrants

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In the early morning half light, Ajad Miccoli stops his scooter on his way to work and contemplates the scene unfolding across the scruffy, shuttered-up bay. What he sees is both familiar and eerily disturbing. At the quayside, beside a hut advertising seafood treats and boats offering “sunset aperitivi”, a ship with dozens of people on board has docked to unload its exhausted cargo. Altogether there are 210 new arrivals – mostly Syrians, with some Eritreans and Nigerians. Thirty-seven are children. Miraculously, after a perilous journey thought to have begun on the Libyan coast, they are in relatively good condition. One man waves to reporters from the window of a bus sent to drive them away from the port. “These people have probably known death,” says Miccoli, a local musician. “Here, maybe, they have a hope.”

“Here” is Lampedusa, the not-quite eight square miles of Italian territory in the Mediterranean that has become

Migrants dock at Lampedusa … 13,000 have arrived there so far this year. Photograph: Antonio Parinello/Reuters/Guardian

Migrants dock at Lampedusa … 13,000 have arrived there so far this year. Photograph: Antonio Parinello/Reuters/Guardian

known the world over not for hope, but for tragedy. For years, its sparkling waters and postcard-pretty beaches have provided a jarring backdrop for migrant boat landings; the island is conveniently closer to Africa than Europe – around 70 miles from the Tunisian coast and further south than Malta. But even for a place well-acquainted with human suffering, the horror brought to its coastline in the past fortnight has been a shock. “It’s awful,” says Pietro Riso, a fisherman watching Tuesday morning’s first arrival. (Soon after there was another boat at the dock – this time carrying 90, including four pregnant women.) “These landings have been going on for about 20 years. But these last disasters have upset the balance. You get up in the morning and you don’t know what to expect.”

Read more at the Guardian

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