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At 3am, 500 people set off from Misurata, on the Libyan coast. The boat, Giraffa, was just 20 metres long with seven berths and one toilet. The men in command had called Libya at dawn to say that everything was all right, the journey had gone well and land was in sight. It only took a moment and a λαμπάς (torch) for the Giraffa to become the greatest tragedy ever to have taken place on Italian territory not in a time of war. Three hundred and sixty-eight perished, among them many children.
Close to the coast, water began to leak into the Giraffa. In order to attract attention, the men in command soaked a blanket with diesel and set it alight. Lampas, λαμπάς, a torch shining bright.
As the fire spread from the blanket to the deck, the scared migrants pressed themselves together, causing the heavy fishing vessel to overturn. The sea became an inferno of water and diesel. “The cries sounded like seagulls”, was the account of the first rescuers on the scene, a group of friends who had come together on their friend Vito’s boat that evening to relax and fish. The first to realize that people were in the water, they pulled out 47 people from the sea. Lampedusa is the first strip of Europe for migrants desperately seeking civilization, fleeing from poverty and war. It is a refuge for them, an island far away from the noise and traffic, where wind and sea hold sway for those who want to find nature again.
(From the book Lipadusa by Calogero Cammalleri. Texts of the video readings are by Michela A.G. Iaccarino. Video are in Italian)
Alfie Nze reads Zerit’s story
Lidia Schillaci reads the piece Lampedusa