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Buba remembers Libya: “Better to die than stay in Ziltan prison”

As soon as you enter Libya you realize at once that everything is just money, even the lives of Africans. If you have enough money to bribe the police they let you go through, otherwise they take you into a storehouse or a garage and beat you up. If you have someone who can send you money you have to hang on just long enough to receive the money transfer, but if there’s nobody who can help you, well, you just have to hope that they will get tired of torturing you before you die, and then at times they let you go.

Other times they transfer you to the prison at Zlitan and in that case perhaps it would be better to die. Everyone knows Zlitan in Libya, Zlitan means fear. Anybody who rebels or tries to get away is savagely punished. Sometimes they hang you up head down and beat you with rods, as if you were a sack, or you are strapped to a table and they whip the soles of your feet. At first it is only painful, but then if they go on too long you stop being human, your eyes glaze over and you forget that you are alive.

When I left Libya I didn’t shed a single tear. There were fifteen of us on that boat, there was a pregnant woman and a child. Then the sea became black, the boat overturned and everything we knew was of no use to us. The sea doesn’t understand things of the land, your clothes and shoes become heavy and pull you down. Only eight of us got to Lampedusa, and all naked. I never knew what the woman was called, and I never will.

I now live in Turin in the occupied ex-Ministry of the Interior houses. Italy is not like Libya, although even here the lives of Africans are not worth much.

In Italy they take your fingerprints and they give you a number. They call you a refugee, they give you a piece of paper and shut you up in a reception centre. Then the centre closes and you are out on the street – the project is finished – and you discover that “international protection” is just two words put together.

Buba is 30 and comes from Gambia. In March, 2013, he took part in Turin together with a hundred refugees like him in occupying the ex-MOI (ex-General Fruit and Vegetable Market) centre where he lives. He is at the moment going to secondary school and hopes to become an electrician.

The story of Bishara / Torino, ex-MOI

Bishara is 27 year old and he comes from Tchad. Since 2013 he has lived at the ex-MOI occupation in Turin, where he found a place to stay along with hundreds of other migrants after the end of the “North Africa Emergency”.


His dilemma was having to decide who to save and who to leave to drown.

His dilemma was having to decide who to save and who to leave to drown. He still can’t stop thinking about it. Marcello Nizza, a new job every season, on the night of the 3rd of October was out at sea off the coast of Lampedusa with a group of friends. Some of them were fishing, he was just enjoying the peace of the starlit night over the waves. He had been coming to Lampedusa for his holidays for many years, but this time it was different. He had moved back there after the summer with the intention of settling down and opening up some kind of activity on the island of his dreams. Six months working with the tourists and six months of sea. But he had not taken account of the Sicilian Channel and the dreams of 500 desperate boat people off Lampedusa that night of the 3rd of October.

Together with his friends he saved 47 that night. They pulled them out as they threshed about in the water, desperately grabbing arms that were slippery with diesel, slippery, so slippery.

They loaded up the boat until they realized that they were listing dangerously to one side. It was terrible, with the sea still full of people calling for help, but they had to head for the coast otherwise they would all have perished. He became a hero, was awarded medals, gave interviews, created intense emotion and inspired admiration.

But it hasn’t been the 47 survivors who have haunted his nights all these months. It’s been all the others: all the arms you could see waving for a moment in the distance and then disappearing. The arms seized and slipping out of your grasp into the sea. “The problem was,” he says after staying away from Lampedusa for a few months, “that I was in the prow of the boat. I was guiding my mate who was at the rudder. So it was my directions that decided who was saved and who was drowned. That’s a terrible responsibility to have to live with.”

The shipwreck of the 3rd of October was also the shipwreck of his certainties, clear proof of how helpless we all are, a point of no return. “I returned home for a few months, to Catania.” A psychiatrist would probably call it post-traumatic stress disorder, which affected so many American soldiers after the Gulf War, but Marcello has no time for that. “I helped myself alone, my friends also helped me. Now I’ve got to concentrate on the 47 that we managed to save”.

Five months later, Lampedusa is an island without boat people. After the scandal of migrants being disinfected like animals the Rescue Center at the edge of the town has been shut down for refurbishment. There are dozens of workmen building a new pavilion under the watchful eye of carabinieri and soldiers. Along the metal enclosure there are still bits of clothing and fragments of silver thermal sheet stuck to the barbed wire. Among the brambles single gym shoes. All that remains after the clean-up operation.

Along the roads of the island, in the bars and piazzas, there are more police than fisher folk, the bungalows of the La Roccia tourist village house the carabinieri, on the square above the port you can see the five army lorries, the soldiers are billeted in the hotel next to them. At the old port at night the fishing boats are lit up by the Guardia di Finanza neon sign. In the bars you meet policemen from Frontex, while at sea there are the Navy ships presiding over that invisible wall that separates the coasts of Africa and Europe. If you manage to slip through you can become a refugee, otherwise you just remain a desperado like all the others. There are no landings in March, the sea is too rough, and the few vessels that attempt to cross the Sicilian Channel are all intercepted.

It has taken Marcello five months to find the strength to get over his nightmare and return to the island that he had chosen as the place to live. Who knows whether he’ll ever manage to enjoy the stars above the waves again.


Sekou Camara

My name is Sekou and I’m 26 years old. I arrived in Italy by way of Lampedusa, but I don’t remember anything of the island, because when I got there I thought I was dead. Before everything started I was in Tripoli. I was working on a construction site when Gaddafi’s militiamen captured me. I didn’t know what they were going to do with me, if they wanted to force me to fight their war or lock me up in a prison. I didn’t ask any questions when they caught me: I was afraid of their rifles and maybe also of what they would say. I discovered that my prison was to be a fishing boat and the war waiting for me was the sea. My place was down below, in the hold, where you couldn’t breathe and the smell of fish was unbearable. We couldn’t even stay dry: we fought against the sea that poured in by throwing buckets of water out through a small porthole. We had been at sea for two days when the boat stopped. It was night. Around us there was just water and sky. “It’s the work of the devil,” someone whispered. As it passed from mouth to mouth, the devil from just a simple word became something real and terrible. We decided to collect everything we had, money, rings, bracelets, and gave it to the sea. Hoping the devil would be satisfied and let us continue on our journey. At the first light of dawn we started to move again. We hadn’t eaten and drunk anything for two days but we were full of hope because we knew we had almost arrived. But after another day and another night at sea we still hadn’t seen land. And we had almost run out of diesel. At that moment a thought crossed my mind: I was going to die. However much I tried to push the thought away, it kept returning. We were all going to die. This thought grew more and more inside me until in the end there was nothing else except this fear. My mouth can produce a lot of languages: I know French, English, Arabic, Wolhof, Pulaar, but I couldn’t pronounce a single word because there is not one that has any sense when you know that you are already dead. I don’t know how much time passed. Voices, people – they didn’t exist any longer, nor did the sea, the smell, my thirst, and the sight of land, of Europe, that didn’t appear. Maybe it was me that didn’t exist.

My heart stopped while they were saving us. “Heart failure,” the doctors said. The only memory I have of Lampedusa is the helicopter that took me away from the island. In Rome I spent two months in a hospital, without ever finding anything to say. There was not one word, a single word, in all the languages I know, that could give any sense to what I had been through.

Sekou Camara comes from Guinea. He arrived at Lampedusa in 2011. After a long period of rehabilitation in hospital he found accommodation in Rome, where he lived for a year working as a tyre repairer. He now lives in Turin and is looking for a job.


Vitalis’ story

My name Vitalis and I did not want to come to this country. I did not pay any ticket, I chose the sea when the soldiers of Gaddafi, with gun pressed on my face, asked to choose between a boat and a bullet. Leave or die. I was exhausted when I arrived in Lampedusa, the journey had lasted five days and I was wondering what my future would be, it was enough for me to be with my feet on dry land, with the sea behind. I spent two months in the center of Manduria and they told us that this was a temporary destination, we had to be patient, they took our fingerprints and we were given a number. Then one day, with the buses we have been moved to Piedmont, in Settimo Torinese. Our new home was called Hotel Giglio.

At the time Giglio was always empty, we could survive, but every day we were not alive. We had a bed and hot meals and days were all the same but we are not farm animals, we are men. On January 23, the revolt broke out, we were exasperated by the smallest things, that day we blocked the road outside the hotel and the police arrived, the people working there all ran away but we did not want to hurt anyone, just wanted to shout that we are also men, who want to live. After the revolt I have been expelled from Giglio, it was cold in those days and I found that many people like me were on their way. The camps were closing, and we who came from Libya we stood in the streets, in train stations to freeze.
When they told me that a group of refugees was thinking of occupying some blocks of flats, and there were Italians willing to help, I wanted to join them because I do not want to be cared for, I want the opportunity to take care of myself, to feel that I am to decide about my future.

Today, these homes are a small Africa, we are here in six hundred people, we come from 25 different countries and we are learning to live together. At first Ghanaians wanted to be alone with Ghanaians and did not trust anyone else, and so it was for Nigerians and Malians and Eritreans. Now Ethiopians and Tuareg are drinking tea together, Sudanese and Ghanaian divide the expenses and meals. We are all equal here, we’re the ones who came from Libya, the survivors. Even now it is not simple, we live without hot water and no heating, but this is our home and not just a place to stay because from here we stopped being treated like children and we are ready to fight for our rights and the our dignity.

Vitalis is 28 years old and comes from Nigeria, arrived in Lampedusa on August 13, 2011. After the closure of the Emergency reception centers in North Africa , it was found in the street while being beneficiary of international protection . Along with hundreds of other refugees gave birth in the city of Turin employment population EX MOI where he currently resides.


Looking for a place for happiness

My name is Samuel and I hope that at least this is my place. First I was at  Yaoundé in Cameroon, I lived in a house on the first floor, in the market area. Down below I sold shirts, trousers, clothes of all sorts. The people in the market all knew me and I knew everyone. When the government decided to build a new trunk road we found that our houses and shops were all going to be demolished. So we decided to protest, all the tradespeople of the area, all together, to ask for another place to go at least. The government didn’t like that and I discovered in a few hours that I had become a political criminal.

I fled my country at night and made my way to Nigeria. God couldn’t have abandoned me. Perhaps he just wanted to tell me, I kept repeating to myself, that that wasn’t my place.

In Libya I decided to stop. No, I had never thought that it was the right place, but it had been on the move for months, I had crossed Nigeria, Niger and Algeria, I was exhausted and completely broke. I learned the trade of plasterer and did stucco work, I liked working as a decorator, I fell in love with a woman and we went and lived together. In Libya a foreigner can be almost happy, happy no. There was work, but there was nothing else for us, the Arabs call us Africans, as if they weren’t Arabs too. I didn’t care, all I was worried about was putting together a bit of money in order to go away and start again somewhere else. [twitter_share]You never know when it’s going to be the last day, in the morning you go out and when you return in the evening there is just a crater and rubble and dust.[/twitter_share]

They say it was a missile but who launched it and why I have never found out.

When the war broke out, even the Africans became the enemy: the rebels accused us of being Gaddafi’s militiamen, the royalists of fighting with the rebels. Anyone we encountered would have good reasons to kill us, so we escaped again, always at night. During the crossing I didn’t think of anything, all I kept repeating to myself was that Libya was not my place. From Tripoli to Lampedusa it was a quiet crossing, and after a night at sea, with the first light of day we landed on the island. I remember the Red Cross people and lots of people running up and down the jetty.

Italy is not what I imagined it to be, there’s no work and at times they look at you on the bus as if you were not welcome. But I think that perhaps this is my place, that there must be a sense to all this, that perhaps I am here for my brothers, for our rights. Perhaps I’m also here to tell my story, so that it isn’t forgotten.

Samuel P. arrived in Italy in 2011. When the North Africa emergency programme finished he found himself in the street again and without a home, despite the fact that he had regular refugee status. He and another hundred or so refugees in the city of Turin have occupied the EX MOI buildings where he lives at present.


I thought ‘it would be terrible for my mother to lose two sons in the same night’, and I left my brother behind.

It was the Italians that built my town, Elabaned, in Eritrea, where I was born 28 years ago. Just in case you’ve forgotten, we were your colony. I’m the first migrant in my family and I’m a marine biologist. I used to spend my days talking with fish, sectioning algae, studying the routes of the shoals of fish, analysing microorganisms in the sea. Day after day I would collect secrets from the waves as the wind played on them. But what there was beyond the sea was what I didn’t know yet, and what I didn’t ask. That was the last mystery to be revealed. To do that, there was no alternative.

I thought I knew the sea and I would observe it from above, from the land. I had to do it for my country when I did my military service, which starts when you are 18 and ends when you are in the grave. My wages were zero, sometimes less than zero. There was no alternative to that, either.

So I started walking. I was lucky because I knew in what direction to go. After 3 days of dust and sun, without stopping, I arrived in the Sudan.  My brother Samuel, who was a mechanic, lived there. Twenty-five years spent hoping. 1,600  dollars a head is the price of hope as far as Tripoli, Libya, and my brother and I made it there. Locked up in a house with another 500 Eritreans, surrounded by men with rifles, we waited. Yes, it was terrible. But I put up with it, because there was no other alternative.

There was the sea in the town, but I didn’t see it. I remained there for one month without even going out to look for it. All 500 of us left the house together: another $1,600, the cost of a second hope on board a fishing vessel. After hours spent in the sea, two boats appeared out of the night. One of them circled around us at a distance of twenty metres or so. And all 500 of us, in the black darkness of the night, started to smile through our clenched teeth. It was as if the darkness had already ended because we weren’t afraid any longer. We’re safe, we shouted. They’re going to come back and pick us up, I said to Samuel. I’ll be able to watch the sea again from the land, I thought. After more than an hour we realized that no one was going to come and save us.

One mile from the coast of Lampedusa we set fire to a blanket to attract attention. It was like lighting a candle in a tomb. A light in the middle of nothing. But there was no other alternative. [twitter_share]The blanket caught fire and we got scared. We all rushed to one side and the boat capsized. Those of us who were still alive began to swim. There’s no point crying water in water. [/twitter_share]

After swimming for three hours I turned and saw that my brother had fallen behind. He said: “Go on, Zerit! Get to land. Call home”. He said: “Bye Zerit”. And I was on the point of fainting in the sea, I couldn’t swim for the two of us, I thought ‘it would be terrible for my mother to lose two sons in the same night – and I left my brother behind. I called: “Bye Samuel”. I, Zerit, am alive because my brother is dead. My last goodbye I said to him at the camp when they showed me a photograph of a body swollen with water. I who spent my life studying the sea, I’ve explored the seabed and recognized the voices of the seashells – did not recognise my own brother. So he died a second death. The day of the funeral I couldn’t wait for the result of the DNA test that would tell me: ”Yes, that’s your brother Samuel”.

Now those people from television are asking me if I’m sad, and if looking at the sea makes me sadder. But it’s you that have got to give me an answer. Tell me why I wasn’t at my brother’s funeral. It was like leaving him in the water a second time. So I abandoned him for a third time. At the refugee camp on the day of the funeral, to which we – brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers – were not invited, it took us a minute to decide and all come together.

When we realized that we couldn’t go to Agrigento, that there would be strangers who would be throwing flowers on shiny coffins of expensive wood, while there were still bodies trapped in the rotten wood of the boat, we understood that they were dying for a second time. We also forced the gates behind which they wanted to keep us locked up that day, we prayed 4 times towards the south, between our fingers we held wild flowers that grew around the camp, and when it came to the hour of the tragedy we all went down to the sea. It was the sea that I asked about Samuel. Hoping that it will reveal this last secret, or that at least his soul may return that day.

I don’t look at the sea any longer. I’ll go anywhere as long as it’s as far away as possible from this island, and Italy. I don’t want to live in a land where my brother was left to fall asleep exhausted among the waves. Don’t call us migrant victims; we are just survivors. I’m alive because my brother is dead. That’s the truth of it, and you haven’t said it yet out loud. Perhaps the Italians want to know, but even if they don’t, they have to hear it all the same. There are 157 stories like this in the camp. You should get to know them all.

Zerit was born in Eritrea 28 years ago. After graduating in marine science he decided to join his brother Samuel in Sudan, with him continue the journey towards Libia, and from Tripoli reach the Italian coast. Samuel died in the sea October, 3rd when he was about one hour away from the coast. Zerit arrived in Lampedusa.


I didn’t know that giving my fingerprints would have been my sentence

My name is Kaou and I come from Mali. I arrived at Lampedusa from Tripoli in 2011 because I had no other choice. When war broke out I wanted to head for Algeria and return to my country, but Tripoli was under siege and you could neither get out nor in. One day a friend told me that he had decided to go across the sea to Italy and I went with him. I arrived at Lampedusa in May and they put me into the camp, they didn’t treat me badly, but there were a lot of us in there, too many. The days went by and more and more new refugees arrived and no one told you what was happening or how long we were going to remain there. I knew that we had rights in Europe, and that they could issue us with a document. [twitter_share]What I didn’t know while they were taking my fingerprints was that I would never be able to leave Italy, that they would move me from one camp to another, and that in the end I would find myself in the street.[/twitter_share]

The reception centres are always hidden, a long way away from people. I wanted to get to know Italians and their way of life, but it seems as though we were supposed to have a life apart from anyone else. Before there were many things I didn’t know, and I think that many Italians still don’t know them. When I was in the Settimo Torinese camp, they gave the Red Cross 42 euro a day for every refugee and when the cold weather came we couldn’t even have a jacket. To get mine I had to work for a week. My boss was a Moroccan, I went out in the morning with a trolley and collected plastic from the rubbish skips, from 5 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon. For a week of work he paid you 40 to 50 euro and with that money I bought myself a jacket at the market at Porta Palazzo. The end of the North Africa emergency wasn’t the end of our problems, it was only the end of the money. “The camp is shutting down, you are all out in a week”. It was February and it was still cold, so I began to sleep in stations and dormitories, then I decided to escape to France to find a job and somewhere permanent to sleep. I have documents in Italy, I have international protection, instead in France I was a sans papiers. I worked as a painter, without paying taxes, for a few month, then I had to come back. “Your fingerprints are in Italy”, they tell you and take you back to Ventimiglia. Anyway in Libya it’s very different. There foreigners have no rights, nor papers. You can find work, the police pretend they don’t see you; but if a Libyan does something to you, it’s you that is arrested because being foreigners is the greatest crime. It Italy they say that we are all equal and we have many rights, but most of the time they are not respected, so sometimes it’s the same.

Kaou is 25 and comes from Mali. He came to Lampedusa in May 2011 and can’t return to his country because while he was in Italy Mali was torn by a bloody civil war. He lives at the moment in Turin with no fixed abode.

A life as an invisible

My name is Hassan and I live at the Lingotto, even if everyone calls it EX MOI here, the place where the foreigners live. Perhaps nobody is interested to know how they live but I am one of them and so I want to tell you about it. It’s hard living here, day after day, without work, without heating, without hot water. We’re not hiding here, we came from the sea, to Lampedusa, to Pozzallo; we all have documents and this makes our situation even more absurd, and us more and more tired of it. I have often thought of going to another country, where you can live better, but we have left our fingerprints here and we’ve had to learn about the Dublin Convention and understand that we can’t leave Italy. The Convention kills and I ask myself how Europe can have a law that kills foreigners like us a little at a time, we are just poor people, we haven’t been able to live in our countries because of war and famine. How could we know that we would find the same on the other side of the Mediterranean. [twitter_share]At times when you are walking along you see that people have crossed  the road to the other side because they have just seen you, perhaps they are scared of the colour of our skins or we remind them of someone who robbed them once.[/twitter_share]

Among us there are good people and bad people and that’s the same among Italians too, but I don’t cross the road. This has no sense. Before Italy I had never seen anything like it. You feel like stopping and shouting: “ Come over here! I want to tell you about us!”, but perhaps they would hurry on even faster and so you don’t say anything and you think that it wasn’t the right time to say it anyway. I’ve decided that I want to write, to tell our story to everyone, even to us. Perhaps through poetry, or a theatrical work. I’m not going to write to become famous, my name is of no importance, I want everyone to forget it and remember only what I write and that it was written by one of us. I hope that many people who live like me will want to do the same. The truth about us is unknown, invisible, and many people don’t even ask themselves “why is that person grubbing around in the rubbish or collecting things that other people are not interested in any more?”. The truth about us is something that hurts, and that’s why nobody wants to know but we can’t wait any longer, we must find the best moment to tell it. Hassan is a Somali. He arrived at Lampedusa from Tripoli in 2008 and has lived in Turin since 2010. His dream today is to become a writer. He is currently working on theatrical monologues on the subject of welcome and integration.


I’m about to become a free man

I migrated in October 2013. On the sea you die like rats, like under the bombs. Even if it is your sea, we’re the ones who drank it, with our lungs. The first Europe I saw from Africa was Lampedusa. The bad days are over now: no more false welcomes, the running away, the scorn, the hunger. My spirit is full of a boat smashed by the waves, and with my spirits so low I have continued on my journey. I left the island, they let me get away, before they took my fingerprints which would have condemned me to remain for ever in Italy. Fingerprints are like handcuffs. You don’t know it, but you are in a cell. I’m a person who if he bows his back, it is only to pick fruit. For the rest, I am like all of us in my nation: even under the bombs we keep our backs straight. I caught a train from Sicily for Milan. From Milan I kept heading further north. It was Europe I wanted, and now I have it. I arrived with another hundred in Norway. Here the world doesn’t need to wait for tomorrow to have a mixed skin. Here the years to come are no longer a hypothesis for me. I have a right to political asylum here. I am about to become a free man. This photograph was taken and sent by a migrant who arrived at Lampedusa in October, 2013, and who is now in Scandinavia.

Migrants’ wishes for 2014

What do migrants wish for 2014? Freedom, a bike, a warm house and a good job, internet to talk with their families. Get married. These are all very simple wishes, the same wishes that we have as well. They have been collected by Fabrica and are presented in this video. These wishes also decorate a Christmas tree installed in Venice by Fabrica.

They deny me the right to do a good deed

Just talking about it makes me feel bad, really bad.
These things can’t leave you indifferent, and you feel bad about it because you have the possibility of giving them somewhere to sleep, but the institutions won’t allow you to.
I’m a citizen of Lampedusa, my name is Lillo Maggiore, my job is … I’m an administrative assistant at the Luigi Pirandello school in Lampedusa. I have a family, made up of me obviously, my wife and two daughters. And I lived through everything, I could say, in 2011. 2011 which I could say, I repeat, changed me and my family, changed our lives: my life because I realised for the first time the reality of poverty, the lack of freedom, living terrible hardships, because, I repeat, these people were living outside, out in the open, in the cold, and from that moment I decided to do something to help them.
I worked in the morning, in the afternoons, and in the evening, above all at night, I dedicated my time to them. I dedicated myself to them, in what sense? Handing out blankets, bringing them hot drinks, getting them thick jackets, shoes … a bit of everything that could help them.
There’s just one thing that I get mad about, the institutions that abstain from… let me say it, deny me the right to do a good deed. I applied for provisional custody of a child, I applied to the social services of the Lampedusa municipality, about a month ago. But nothing, until today, nothing.
Above all, when the weather is bad, and you see them going along the roads, they haven’t got a coat, sometimes not even a pair of shoes, but just a pair of slippers, or they haven’t got a telephone card to let their parents know that they are all right… and so what are you supposed to do? You imagine yourself in their place, you imagine, at least I’m the kind of person that imagines himself in their place immediately and you try to do something, but I can’t do what I would like to do, that is, I am able to help them a bit, but not as much as would be necessary… and this is frustrating, it makes you suffer, because if you start something you want to carry it through, not leave it half done. But they won’t let you … the children, especially the children who have to stay in the CIE together with the adults, it’s not right: children should stay with children, or in a family, which will act as a … to feel that family warmth: these kids do nothing but sleep outside.. Now what I say is this: if all the Lampedusan community does nothing but ask to receive them, to welcome them in their homes, why are we being denied this right to do this good deed?

This testimony was taken down by Marco Pavan/Fabrica.

It’s hard when they go off

My name is Enzo, I’m a fisherman and I live on Lampedusa. What I do I find natural because… I’ve seen them many times at sea. Before seeing them on land, I see them at sea, I’ve seen what state they arrive in. I help these people and I don’t think twice about it, because we don’t look at the colour of their skin, because for a fisherman anyone at sea that is in trouble has to be helped. A fisherman never leaves anyone at sea – that’s a rule. It was 2011 when things started getting out of control and we began to give a hand. And if I see a family around with children I take them home with me. I don’t leave them on the pavement. That’s how it is. With my wife Grazia, thank God, she more than me, we have begun to attend the parish, because I’m a believer, and if I believe in God and I’m a Christian, it’s only natural to do what we are doing, because charity is the basis of everything. Seeing these people around, it’s not easy to sleep peacefully at home, knowing what is going on outside. But not because you’re frightened, but because you know that there are people in the road, homeless, you know that it’s raining and they are there outside, you know they are hungry and have no food. And so we do what we can do, and we offer what we can. And I must say that they give us much more than what we give them. The humbleness of these people… I don’t know how to say it… they have lost everything… even their dignity as human beings… because they have had to put up with everything. Then they manage to get here and they lock them up… in that concentration camp… because that’s exactly what it is. It’s no good them saying the “Centre…” – what welcome? 280 places, and there are, I don’t know how many, a thousand of them, nine hundred, a thousand two hundred… if you’ve got 280 places, 280 is where you have to stop, you leave them out, because they are out anyway, they get out from behind. When someone embraces you – they call me “papà” you know, and my wife “mamma”; “thank you, papà”, and to my wife “thank you, mamma” – your home fills with the grace of God. Because when you do a good deed you feel good. I don’t know, come on… let’s say by the grace of God, but it’s like that. We’ll definitely go on doing this. We’ve got our problems too, we have our lives, work, we try to separate the two things. But that doesn’t mean we retreat in front of an emergency or the needs of a brother. Always within our possibilities, but we do as much as we can. What makes us sad is when we have tragedies like what happened a month ago: everyone arrives, ministers come, and then in the end, after a week, a week and a half, things go back perhaps to worse than before. Our problems on Lampedusa are increasing and nobody cares, because we do have problems on the island, because living on an island is a problem in itself: transport, hospital, schools, we’ve got nothing. But we don’t complain that much, because seeing the state in which these people arrive, we consider ourselves quite lucky. The immobility of public institutions is the problem. They go on saying “provisions for Lampedusa…”, but nothing ever happens, and what we have to do, seeing what is happening, we do, without getting too worked up about it. Every now and then a little quarrel breaks out – it’s difficult to stop a little anger overflowing, isn’t it? But we are going on doing it, and we’ll go on doing it, certainly because it’s not going to stop here.

Psss! What are you doing? Are you going away? It’s hard, you know, when they go off, but that’s the way it is. That’s the way it is.

The testimony of fisherman Enzo Riso was taken down by Marco Pavan / Fabrica.

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