Tag Archives: naufragio

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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.

sws_zerit

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.

sws_VitoFiorino

Vito Fiorino: I thought they were seagulls. Instead they were men

I had gone out to cast my nets. This is the season for tuna. I was far out, mare piatto, with a light wind blowing from the west. It was the scirocco.where the sun sets, at six in the morning. My mate heard voices calling. That’s the shearwaters calling, flocks of them, I said to him. Those shouts coming up from the water, I thought they were seagulls. Instead they were men. We didn’t have to even look at each other to decide what we had to do. I took a lifebelt and tied it to a rope. We started pulling up one person after another, naked, dirty with diesel, as the sea threw them up.
[twitter_share]“How many of you are there?”, I asked. They said 500. I could see 50 in the water. I realized we were dealing with an enormous tragedy. [/twitter_share]
“How long have you been in the sea?” I asked. “Four hours”, they said. But I know that in those conditions in the water an hour seems like a day.
Lucky for them that the wind had given them the scirocco, which had blown them towards land and not out to sea. Those who are familiar with the sea know that you can die with the maestrale blowing. In the meantime we went on pulling people on board: I didn’t realize how many there were until we started to swing from side to side with the weight. I waited for permits, but none came. So I put the engine into gear and returned to the port. While they were disembarking I counted them: there were 47 of them. Fortysix men and just one woman.
This is my story of what happened. If it’s only now that I am telling it that’s only for the good of the island. Our institutions won’t do anything. People who think that they have nothing to do with all this won’t do anything. They showed that in the past and they have shown it in these last few days as well. But if Nations are really as United as they say they are, they must do something about it now. I did what was right. I would do it again tomorrow, any moment, and even more. The 47 survivors come and see me every day. They come and see me at my daughter’s bar, and they say ‘ciao, papà’.
Vito Fiorino is 64. He was born in Bari and brought up in Milan. The first time he came to Lampedusa was on holiday, in 1990. When he returned home he felt like a stranger. He sold his woodwork shop and stopped working in the city where he had lived for almost 50 years. His nostalgia for the island drew him back. He has been a Lampedusan for 13 years now. On 3 October, 2013, he saved 47 people from certain death at sea.

I had gone out to cast my nets. This is the season for tuna. I was far out, mare piatto, with a light wind blowing from the west. It was the scirocco.where the sun sets, at six in the morning. My mate heard voices calling. That’s the shearwaters calling, flocks of them, I said to him. Those shouts coming up from the water, I thought they were seagulls. Instead they were men. We didn’t have to even look at each other to decide what we had to do. I took a lifebelt and tied it to a rope. We started pulling up one person after another, naked, dirty with diesel, as the sea threw them up.

[twitter_share]“How many of you are there?”, I asked. They said 500. I could see 50 in the water. I realized we were dealing with an enormous tragedy. [/twitter_share]

“How long have you been in the sea?” I asked. “Four hours”, they said. But I know that in those conditions in the water an hour seems like a day.

Lucky for them that the wind had given them the scirocco, which had blown them towards land and not out to sea. Those who are familiar with the sea know that you can die with the maestrale blowing. In the meantime we went on pulling people on board: I didn’t realize how many there were until we started to swing from side to side with the weight. I waited for permits, but none came. So I put the engine into gear and returned to the port. While they were disembarking I counted them: there were 47 of them. Fortysix men and just one woman.

This is my story of what happened. If it’s only now that I am telling it that’s only for the good of the island. Our institutions won’t do anything. People who think that they have nothing to do with all this won’t do anything. They showed that in the past and they have shown it in these last few days as well. But if Nations are really as United as they say they are, they must do something about it now. I did what was right. I would do it again tomorrow, any moment, and even more. The 47 survivors come and see me every day. They come and see me at my daughter’s bar, and they say ‘ciao, papà’.

Vito Fiorino is 64. He was born in Bari and brought up in Milan. The first time he came to Lampedusa was on holiday, in 1990. When he returned home he felt like a stranger. He sold his woodwork shop and stopped working in the city where he had lived for almost 50 years. His nostalgia for the island drew him back. He has been a Lampedusan for 13 years now. On 3 October, 2013, he saved 47 people from certain death at sea.I had gone out to cast my nets. This is the season for tuna. I was far out, mare piatto, with a light wind blowing from the west. It was the scirocco.where the sun sets, at six in the morning. My mate heard voices calling. That’s the shearwaters calling, flocks of them, I said to him. Those shouts coming up from the water, I thought they were seagulls. Instead they were men. We didn’t have to even look at each other to decide what we had to do. I took a lifebelt and tied it to a rope. We started pulling up one person after another, naked, dirty with diesel, as the sea threw them up.

[twitter_share]“How many of you are there?”, I asked. They said 500. I could see 50 in the water. I realized we were dealing with an enormous tragedy. [/twitter_share]

“How long have you been in the sea?” I asked. “Four hours”, they said. But I know that in those conditions in the water an hour seems like a day.

Lucky for them that the wind had given them the scirocco, which had blown them towards land and not out to sea. Those who are familiar with the sea know that you can die with the maestrale blowing. In the meantime we went on pulling people on board: I didn’t realize how many there were until we started to swing from side to side with the weight. I waited for permits, but none came. So I put the engine into gear and returned to the port. While they were disembarking I counted them: there were 47 of them. Fortysix men and just one woman.

This is my story of what happened. If it’s only now that I am telling it that’s only for the good of the island. Our institutions won’t do anything. People who think that they have nothing to do with all this won’t do anything. They showed that in the past and they have shown it in these last few days as well. But if Nations are really as United as they say they are, they must do something about it now. I did what was right. I would do it again tomorrow, any moment, and even more. The 47 survivors come and see me every day. They come and see me at my daughter’s bar, and they say ‘ciao, papà’.

Vito Fiorino is 64. He was born in Bari and brought up in Milan. The first time he came to Lampedusa was on holiday, in 1990. When he returned home he felt like a stranger. He sold his woodwork shop and stopped working in the city where he had lived for almost 50 years. His nostalgia for the island drew him back. He has been a Lampedusan for 13 years now. On 3 October, 2013, he saved 47 people from certain death at sea.I had gone out to cast my nets. This is the season for tuna. I was far out, mare piatto, with a light wind blowing from the west. It was the scirocco.where the sun sets, at six in the morning. My mate heard voices calling. That’s the shearwaters calling, flocks of them, I said to him. Those shouts coming up from the water, I thought they were seagulls. Instead they were men. We didn’t have to even look at each other to decide what we had to do. I took a lifebelt and tied it to a rope. We started pulling up one person after another, naked, dirty with diesel, as the sea threw them up.

[twitter_share]“How many of you are there?”, I asked. They said 500. I could see 50 in the water. I realized we were dealing with an enormous tragedy. [/twitter_share]

“How long have you been in the sea?” I asked. “Four hours”, they said. But I know that in those conditions in the water an hour seems like a day.

Lucky for them that the wind had given them the scirocco, which had blown them towards land and not out to sea. Those who are familiar with the sea know that you can die with the maestrale blowing. In the meantime we went on pulling people on board: I didn’t realize how many there were until we started to swing from side to side with the weight. I waited for permits, but none came. So I put the engine into gear and returned to the port. While they were disembarking I counted them: there were 47 of them. Fortysix men and just one woman.

This is my story of what happened. If it’s only now that I am telling it that’s only for the good of the island. Our institutions won’t do anything. People who think that they have nothing to do with all this won’t do anything. They showed that in the past and they have shown it in these last few days as well. But if Nations are really as United as they say they are, they must do something about it now. I did what was right. I would do it again tomorrow, any moment, and even more. The 47 survivors come and see me every day. They come and see me at my daughter’s bar, and they say ‘ciao, papà’.

Vito Fiorino is 64. He was born in Bari and brought up in Milan. The first time he came to Lampedusa was on holiday, in 1990. When he returned home he felt like a stranger. He sold his woodwork shop and stopped working in the city where he had lived for almost 50 years. His nostalgia for the island drew him back. He has been a Lampedusan for 13 years now. On 3 October, 2013, he saved 47 people from certain death at sea.I had gone out to cast my nets. This is the season for tuna. I was far out, mare piatto, with a light wind blowing from the west. It was the scirocco.where the sun sets, at six in the morning. My mate heard voices calling. That’s the shearwaters calling, flocks of them, I said to him. Those shouts coming up from the water, I thought they were seagulls. Instead they were men. We didn’t have to even look at each other to decide what we had to do. I took a lifebelt and tied it to a rope. We started pulling up one person after another, naked, dirty with diesel, as the sea threw them up.

[twitter_share]“How many of you are there?”, I asked. They said 500. I could see 50 in the water. I realized we were dealing with an enormous tragedy. [/twitter_share]

“How long have you been in the sea?” I asked. “Four hours”, they said. But I know that in those conditions in the water an hour seems like a day.

Lucky for them that the wind had given them the scirocco, which had blown them towards land and not out to sea. Those who are familiar with the sea know that you can die with the maestrale blowing. In the meantime we went on pulling people on board: I didn’t realize how many there were until we started to swing from side to side with the weight. I waited for permits, but none came. So I put the engine into gear and returned to the port. While they were disembarking I counted them: there were 47 of them. Fortysix men and just one woman.

This is my story of what happened. If it’s only now that I am telling it that’s only for the good of the island. Our institutions won’t do anything. People who think that they have nothing to do with all this won’t do anything. They showed that in the past and they have shown it in these last few days as well. But if Nations are really as United as they say they are, they must do something about it now. I did what was right. I would do it again tomorrow, any moment, and even more. The 47 survivors come and see me every day. They come and see me at my daughter’s bar, and they say ‘ciao, papà’.

Vito Fiorino is 64. He was born in Bari and brought up in Milan. The first time he came to Lampedusa was on holiday, in 1990. When he returned home he felt like a stranger. He sold his woodwork shop and stopped working in the city where he had lived for almost 50 years. His nostalgia for the island drew him back. He has been a Lampedusan for 13 years now. On 3 October, 2013, he saved 47 people from certain death at sea.I had gone out to cast my nets. This is the season for tuna. I was far out, mare piatto, with a light wind blowing from the west. It was the scirocco.where the sun sets, at six in the morning. My mate heard voices calling. That’s the shearwaters calling, flocks of them, I said to him. Those shouts coming up from the water, I thought they were seagulls. Instead they were men. We didn’t have to even look at each other to decide what we had to do. I took a lifebelt and tied it to a rope. We started pulling up one person after another, naked, dirty with diesel, as the sea threw them up.

[twitter_share]“How many of you are there?”, I asked. They said 500. I could see 50 in the water. I realized we were dealing with an enormous tragedy. [/twitter_share]

“How long have you been in the sea?” I asked. “Four hours”, they said. But I know that in those conditions in the water an hour seems like a day.

Lucky for them that the wind had given them the scirocco, which had blown them towards land and not out to sea. Those who are familiar with the sea know that you can die with the maestrale blowing. In the meantime we went on pulling people on board: I didn’t realize how many there were until we started to swing from side to side with the weight. I waited for permits, but none came. So I put the engine into gear and returned to the port. While they were disembarking I counted them: there were 47 of them. Fortysix men and just one woman.

This is my story of what happened. If it’s only now that I am telling it that’s only for the good of the island. Our institutions won’t do anything. People who think that they have nothing to do with all this won’t do anything. They showed that in the past and they have shown it in these last few days as well. But if Nations are really as United as they say they are, they must do something about it now. I did what was right. I would do it again tomorrow, any moment, and even more. The 47 survivors come and see me every day. They come and see me at my daughter’s bar, and they say ‘ciao, papà’.

Vito Fiorino is 64. He was born in Bari and brought up in Milan. The first time he came to Lampedusa was on holiday, in 1990. When he returned home he felt like a stranger. He sold his woodwork shop and stopped working in the city where he had lived for almost 50 years. His nostalgia for the island drew him back. He has been a Lampedusan for 13 years now. On 3 October, 2013, he saved 47 people from certain death at sea.I had gone out to cast my nets. This is the season for tuna. I was far out, mare piatto, with a light wind blowing from the west. It was the scirocco.where the sun sets, at six in the morning. My mate heard voices calling. That’s the shearwaters calling, flocks of them, I said to him. Those shouts coming up from the water, I thought they were seagulls. Instead they were men. We didn’t have to even look at each other to decide what we had to do. I took a lifebelt and tied it to a rope. We started pulling up one person after another, naked, dirty with diesel, as the sea threw them up.

[twitter_share]“How many of you are there?”, I asked. They said 500. I could see 50 in the water. I realized we were dealing with an enormous tragedy. [/twitter_share]

“How long have you been in the sea?” I asked. “Four hours”, they said. But I know that in those conditions in the water an hour seems like a day.

Lucky for them that the wind had given them the scirocco, which had blown them towards land and not out to sea. Those who are familiar with the sea know that you can die with the maestrale blowing. In the meantime we went on pulling people on board: I didn’t realize how many there were until we started to swing from side to side with the weight. I waited for permits, but none came. So I put the engine into gear and returned to the port. While they were disembarking I counted them: there were 47 of them. Fortysix men and just one woman.

This is my story of what happened. If it’s only now that I am telling it that’s only for the good of the island. Our institutions won’t do anything. People who think that they have nothing to do with all this won’t do anything. They showed that in the past and they have shown it in these last few days as well. But if Nations are really as United as they say they are, they must do something about it now. I did what was right. I would do it again tomorrow, any moment, and even more. The 47 survivors come and see me every day. They come and see me at my daughter’s bar, and they say ‘ciao, papà’.

Vito Fiorino is 64. He was born in Bari and brought up in Milan. The first time he came to Lampedusa was on holiday, in 1990. When he returned home he felt like a stranger. He sold his woodwork shop and stopped working in the city where he had lived for almost 50 years. His nostalgia for the island drew him back. He has been a Lampedusan for 13 years now. On 3 October, 2013, he saved 47 people from certain death at sea.I had gone out to cast my nets. This is the season for tuna. I was far out, mare piatto, with a light wind blowing from the west. It was the scirocco.where the sun sets, at six in the morning. My mate heard voices calling. That’s the shearwaters calling, flocks of them, I said to him. Those shouts coming up from the water, I thought they were seagulls. Instead they were men. We didn’t have to even look at each other to decide what we had to do. I took a lifebelt and tied it to a rope. We started pulling up one person after another, naked, dirty with diesel, as the sea threw them up.

[twitter_share]“How many of you are there?”, I asked. They said 500. I could see 50 in the water. I realized we were dealing with an enormous tragedy. [/twitter_share]

“How long have you been in the sea?” I asked. “Four hours”, they said. But I know that in those conditions in the water an hour seems like a day.

Lucky for them that the wind had given them the scirocco, which had blown them towards land and not out to sea. Those who are familiar with the sea know that you can die with the maestrale blowing. In the meantime we went on pulling people on board: I didn’t realize how many there were until we started to swing from side to side with the weight. I waited for permits, but none came. So I put the engine into gear and returned to the port. While they were disembarking I counted them: there were 47 of them. Fortysix men and just one woman.

This is my story of what happened. If it’s only now that I am telling it that’s only for the good of the island. Our institutions won’t do anything. People who think that they have nothing to do with all this won’t do anything. They showed that in the past and they have shown it in these last few days as well. But if Nations are really as United as they say they are, they must do something about it now. I did what was right. I would do it again tomorrow, any moment, and even more. The 47 survivors come and see me every day. They come and see me at my daughter’s bar, and they say ‘ciao, papà’.

Vito Fiorino is 64. He was born in Bari and brought up in Milan. The first time he came to Lampedusa was on holiday, in 1990. When he returned home he felt like a stranger. He sold his woodwork shop and stopped working in the city where he had lived for almost 50 years. His nostalgia for the island drew him back. He has been a Lampedusan for 13 years now. On 3 October, 2013, he saved 47 people from certain death at sea.I had gone out to cast my nets. This is the season for tuna. I was far out, mare piatto, with a light wind blowing from the west. It was the scirocco.where the sun sets, at six in the morning. My mate heard voices calling. That’s the shearwaters calling, flocks of them, I said to him. Those shouts coming up from the water, I thought they were seagulls. Instead they were men. We didn’t have to even look at each other to decide what we had to do. I took a lifebelt and tied it to a rope. We started pulling up one person after another, naked, dirty with diesel, as the sea threw them up.

[twitter_share]“How many of you are there?”, I asked. They said 500. I could see 50 in the water. I realized we were dealing with an enormous tragedy. [/twitter_share]

“How long have you been in the sea?” I asked. “Four hours”, they said. But I know that in those conditions in the water an hour seems like a day.

Lucky for them that the wind had given them the scirocco, which had blown them towards land and not out to sea. Those who are familiar with the sea know that you can die with the maestrale blowing. In the meantime we went on pulling people on board: I didn’t realize how many there were until we started to swing from side to side with the weight. I waited for permits, but none came. So I put the engine into gear and returned to the port. While they were disembarking I counted them: there were 47 of them. Fortysix men and just one woman.

This is my story of what happened. If it’s only now that I am telling it that’s only for the good of the island. Our institutions won’t do anything. People who think that they have nothing to do with all this won’t do anything. They showed that in the past and they have shown it in these last few days as well. But if Nations are really as United as they say they are, they must do something about it now. I did what was right. I would do it again tomorrow, any moment, and even more. The 47 survivors come and see me every day. They come and see me at my daughter’s bar, and they say ‘ciao, papà’.

Vito Fiorino is 64. He was born in Bari and brought up in Milan. The first time he came to Lampedusa was on holiday, in 1990. When he returned home he felt like a stranger. He sold his woodwork shop and stopped working in the city where he had lived for almost 50 years. His nostalgia for the island drew him back. He has been a Lampedusan for 13 years now. On 3 October, 2013, he saved 47 people from certain death at sea.I had gone out to cast my nets. This is the season for tuna. I was far out, mare piatto, with a light wind blowing from the west. It was the scirocco.where the sun sets, at six in the morning. My mate heard voices calling. That’s the shearwaters calling, flocks of them, I said to him. Those shouts coming up from the water, I thought they were seagulls. Instead they were men. We didn’t have to even look at each other to decide what we had to do. I took a lifebelt and tied it to a rope. We started pulling up one person after another, naked, dirty with diesel, as the sea threw them up.

[twitter_share]“How many of you are there?”, I asked. They said 500. I could see 50 in the water. I realized we were dealing with an enormous tragedy. [/twitter_share]

“How long have you been in the sea?” I asked. “Four hours”, they said. But I know that in those conditions in the water an hour seems like a day.

Lucky for them that the wind had given them the scirocco, which had blown them towards land and not out to sea. Those who are familiar with the sea know that you can die with the maestrale blowing. In the meantime we went on pulling people on board: I didn’t realize how many there were until we started to swing from side to side with the weight. I waited for permits, but none came. So I put the engine into gear and returned to the port. While they were disembarking I counted them: there were 47 of them. Fortysix men and just one woman.

This is my story of what happened. If it’s only now that I am telling it that’s only for the good of the island. Our institutions won’t do anything. People who think that they have nothing to do with all this won’t do anything. They showed that in the past and they have shown it in these last few days as well. But if Nations are really as United as they say they are, they must do something about it now. I did what was right. I would do it again tomorrow, any moment, and even more. The 47 survivors come and see me every day. They come and see me at my daughter’s bar, and they say ‘ciao, papà’.

Vito Fiorino is 64. He was born in Bari and brought up in Milan. The first time he came to Lampedusa was on holiday, in 1990. When he returned home he felt like a stranger. He sold his woodwork shop and stopped working in the city where he had lived for almost 50 years. His nostalgia for the island drew him back. He has been a Lampedusan for 13 years now. On 3 October, 2013, he saved 47 people from certain death at sea.I had gone out to cast my nets. This is the season for tuna. I was far out, mare piatto, with a light wind blowing from the west. It was the scirocco.where the sun sets, at six in the morning. My mate heard voices calling. That’s the shearwaters calling, flocks of them, I said to him. Those shouts coming up from the water, I thought they were seagulls. Instead they were men. We didn’t have to even look at each other to decide what we had to do. I took a lifebelt and tied it to a rope. We started pulling up one person after another, naked, dirty with diesel, as the sea threw them up.

[twitter_share]“How many of you are there?”, I asked. They said 500. I could see 50 in the water. I realized we were dealing with an enormous tragedy. [/twitter_share]

“How long have you been in the sea?” I asked. “Four hours”, they said. But I know that in those conditions in the water an hour seems like a day.

Lucky for them that the wind had given them the scirocco, which had blown them towards land and not out to sea. Those who are familiar with the sea know that you can die with the maestrale blowing. In the meantime we went on pulling people on board: I didn’t realize how many there were until we started to swing from side to side with the weight. I waited for permits, but none came. So I put the engine into gear and returned to the port. While they were disembarking I counted them: there were 47 of them. Fortysix men and just one woman.

This is my story of what happened. If it’s only now that I am telling it that’s only for the good of the island. Our institutions won’t do anything. People who think that they have nothing to do with all this won’t do anything. They showed that in the past and they have shown it in these last few days as well. But if Nations are really as United as they say they are, they must do something about it now. I did what was right. I would do it again tomorrow, any moment, and even more. The 47 survivors come and see me every day. They come and see me at my daughter’s bar, and they say ‘ciao, papà’.

Vito Fiorino is 64. He was born in Bari and brought up in Milan. The first time he came to Lampedusa was on holiday, in 1990. When he returned home he felt like a stranger. He sold his woodwork shop and stopped working in the city where he had lived for almost 50 years. His nostalgia for the island drew him back. He has been a Lampedusan for 13 years now. On 3 October, 2013, he saved 47 people from certain death at sea.I had gone out to cast my nets. This is the season for tuna. I was far out, mare piatto, with a light wind blowing from the west. It was the scirocco.where the sun sets, at six in the morning. My mate heard voices calling. That’s the shearwaters calling, flocks of them, I said to him. Those shouts coming up from the water, I thought they were seagulls. Instead they were men. We didn’t have to even look at each other to decide what we had to do. I took a lifebelt and tied it to a rope. We started pulling up one person after another, naked, dirty with diesel, as the sea threw them up.

[twitter_share]“How many of you are there?”, I asked. They said 500. I could see 50 in the water. I realized we were dealing with an enormous tragedy. [/twitter_share]

“How long have you been in the sea?” I asked. “Four hours”, they said. But I know that in those conditions in the water an hour seems like a day.

Lucky for them that the wind had given them the scirocco, which had blown them towards land and not out to sea. Those who are familiar with the sea know that you can die with the maestrale blowing. In the meantime we went on pulling people on board: I didn’t realize how many there were until we started to swing from side to side with the weight. I waited for permits, but none came. So I put the engine into gear and returned to the port. While they were disembarking I counted them: there were 47 of them. Fortysix men and just one woman.

This is my story of what happened. If it’s only now that I am telling it that’s only for the good of the island. Our institutions won’t do anything. People who think that they have nothing to do with all this won’t do anything. They showed that in the past and they have shown it in these last few days as well. But if Nations are really as United as they say they are, they must do something about it now. I did what was right. I would do it again tomorrow, any moment, and even more. The 47 survivors come and see me every day. They come and see me at my daughter’s bar, and they say ‘ciao, papà’.

Vito Fiorino is 64. He was born in Bari and brought up in Milan. The first time he came to Lampedusa was on holiday, in 1990. When he returned home he felt like a stranger. He sold his woodwork shop and stopped working in the city where he had lived for almost 50 years. His nostalgia for the island drew him back. He has been a Lampedusan for 13 years now. On 3 October, 2013, he saved 47 people from certain death at sea.I had gone out to cast my nets. This is the season for tuna. I was far out, mare piatto, with a light wind blowing from the west. It was the scirocco.where the sun sets, at six in the morning. My mate heard voices calling. That’s the shearwaters calling, flocks of them, I said to him. Those shouts coming up from the water, I thought they were seagulls. Instead they were men. We didn’t have to even look at each other to decide what we had to do. I took a lifebelt and tied it to a rope. We started pulling up one person after another, naked, dirty with diesel, as the sea threw them up.

[twitter_share]“How many of you are there?”, I asked. They said 500. I could see 50 in the water. I realized we were dealing with an enormous tragedy. [/twitter_share]

“How long have you been in the sea?” I asked. “Four hours”, they said. But I know that in those conditions in the water an hour seems like a day.

Lucky for them that the wind had given them the scirocco, which had blown them towards land and not out to sea. Those who are familiar with the sea know that you can die with the maestrale blowing. In the meantime we went on pulling people on board: I didn’t realize how many there were until we started to swing from side to side with the weight. I waited for permits, but none came. So I put the engine into gear and returned to the port. While they were disembarking I counted them: there were 47 of them. Fortysix men and just one woman.

This is my story of what happened. If it’s only now that I am telling it that’s only for the good of the island. Our institutions won’t do anything. People who think that they have nothing to do with all this won’t do anything. They showed that in the past and they have shown it in these last few days as well. But if Nations are really as United as they say they are, they must do something about it now. I did what was right. I would do it again tomorrow, any moment, and even more. The 47 survivors come and see me every day. They come and see me at my daughter’s bar, and they say ‘ciao, papà’.

Vito Fiorino is 64. He was born in Bari and brought up in Milan. The first time he came to Lampedusa was on holiday, in 1990. When he returned home he felt like a stranger. He sold his woodwork shop and stopped working in the city where he had lived for almost 50 years. His nostalgia for the island drew him back. He has been a Lampedusan for 13 years now. On 3 October, 2013, he saved 47 people from certain death at sea.I had gone out to cast my nets. This is the season for tuna. I was far out, mare piatto, with a light wind blowing from the west. It was the scirocco.where the sun sets, at six in the morning. My mate heard voices calling. That’s the shearwaters calling, flocks of them, I said to him. Those shouts coming up from the water, I thought they were seagulls. Instead they were men. We didn’t have to even look at each other to decide what we had to do. I took a lifebelt and tied it to a rope. We started pulling up one person after another, naked, dirty with diesel, as the sea threw them up.

[twitter_share]“How many of you are there?”, I asked. They said 500. I could see 50 in the water. I realized we were dealing with an enormous tragedy. [/twitter_share]

“How long have you been in the sea?” I asked. “Four hours”, they said. But I know that in those conditions in the water an hour seems like a day.

Lucky for them that the wind had given them the scirocco, which had blown them towards land and not out to sea. Those who are familiar with the sea know that you can die with the maestrale blowing. In the meantime we went on pulling people on board: I didn’t realize how many there were until we started to swing from side to side with the weight. I waited for permits, but none came. So I put the engine into gear and returned to the port. While they were disembarking I counted them: there were 47 of them. Fortysix men and just one woman.

This is my story of what happened. If it’s only now that I am telling it that’s only for the good of the island. Our institutions won’t do anything. People who think that they have nothing to do with all this won’t do anything. They showed that in the past and they have shown it in these last few days as well. But if Nations are really as United as they say they are, they must do something about it now. I did what was right. I would do it again tomorrow, any moment, and even more. The 47 survivors come and see me every day. They come and see me at my daughter’s bar, and they say ‘ciao, papà’.

Vito Fiorino is 64. He was born in Bari and brought up in Milan. The first time he came to Lampedusa was on holiday, in 1990. When he returned home he felt like a stranger. He sold his woodwork shop and stopped working in the city where he had lived for almost 50 years. His nostalgia for the island drew him back. He has been a Lampedusan for 13 years now. On 3 October, 2013, he saved 47 people from certain death at sea.I had gone out to cast my nets. This is the season for tuna. I was far out, mare piatto, with a light wind blowing from the west. It was the scirocco.where the sun sets, at six in the morning. My mate heard voices calling. That’s the shearwaters calling, flocks of them, I said to him. Those shouts coming up from the water, I thought they were seagulls. Instead they were men. We didn’t have to even look at each other to decide what we had to do. I took a lifebelt and tied it to a rope. We started pulling up one person after another, naked, dirty with diesel, as the sea threw them up.

[twitter_share]“How many of you are there?”, I asked. They said 500. I could see 50 in the water. I realized we were dealing with an enormous tragedy. [/twitter_share]

“How long have you been in the sea?” I asked. “Four hours”, they said. But I know that in those conditions in the water an hour seems like a day.

Lucky for them that the wind had given them the scirocco, which had blown them towards land and not out to sea. Those who are familiar with the sea know that you can die with the maestrale blowing. In the meantime we went on pulling people on board: I didn’t realize how many there were until we started to swing from side to side with the weight. I waited for permits, but none came. So I put the engine into gear and returned to the port. While they were disembarking I counted them: there were 47 of them. Fortysix men and just one woman.

This is my story of what happened. If it’s only now that I am telling it that’s only for the good of the island. Our institutions won’t do anything. People who think that they have nothing to do with all this won’t do anything. They showed that in the past and they have shown it in these last few days as well. But if Nations are really as United as they say they are, they must do something about it now. I did what was right. I would do it again tomorrow, any moment, and even more. The 47 survivors come and see me every day. They come and see me at my daughter’s bar, and they say ‘ciao, papà’.

Vito Fiorino is 64. He was born in Bari and brought up in Milan. The first time he came to Lampedusa was on holiday, in 1990. When he returned home he felt like a stranger. He sold his woodwork shop and stopped working in the city where he had lived for almost 50 years. His nostalgia for the island drew him back. He has been a Lampedusan for 13 years now. On 3 October, 2013, he saved 47 people from certain death at sea.I had gone out to cast my nets. This is the season for tuna. I was far out, mare piatto, with a light wind blowing from the west. It was the scirocco.where the sun sets, at six in the morning. My mate heard voices calling. That’s the shearwaters calling, flocks of them, I said to him. Those shouts coming up from the water, I thought they were seagulls. Instead they were men. We didn’t have to even look at each other to decide what we had to do. I took a lifebelt and tied it to a rope. We started pulling up one person after another, naked, dirty with diesel, as the sea threw them up.

[twitter_share]“How many of you are there?”, I asked. They said 500. I could see 50 in the water. I realized we were dealing with an enormous tragedy. [/twitter_share]

“How long have you been in the sea?” I asked. “Four hours”, they said. But I know that in those conditions in the water an hour seems like a day.

Lucky for them that the wind had given them the scirocco, which had blown them towards land and not out to sea. Those who are familiar with the sea know that you can die with the maestrale blowing. In the meantime we went on pulling people on board: I didn’t realize how many there were until we started to swing from side to side with the weight. I waited for permits, but none came. So I put the engine into gear and returned to the port. While they were disembarking I counted them: there were 47 of them. Fortysix men and just one woman.

This is my story of what happened. If it’s only now that I am telling it that’s only for the good of the island. Our institutions won’t do anything. People who think that they have nothing to do with all this won’t do anything. They showed that in the past and they have shown it in these last few days as well. But if Nations are really as United as they say they are, they must do something about it now. I did what was right. I would do it again tomorrow, any moment, and even more. The 47 survivors come and see me every day. They come and see me at my daughter’s bar, and they say ‘ciao, papà’.

Vito Fiorino is 64. He was born in Bari and brought up in Milan. The first time he came to Lampedusa was on holiday, in 1990. When he returned home he felt like a stranger. He sold his woodwork shop and stopped working in the city where he had lived for almost 50 years. His nostalgia for the island drew him back. He has been a Lampedusan for 13 years now. On 3 October, 2013, he saved 47 people from certain death at sea.I had gone out to cast my nets. This is the season for tuna. I was far out, mare piatto, with a light wind blowing from the west. It was the scirocco.where the sun sets, at six in the morning. My mate heard voices calling. That’s the shearwaters calling, flocks of them, I said to him. Those shouts coming up from the water, I thought they were seagulls. Instead they were men. We didn’t have to even look at each other to decide what we had to do. I took a lifebelt and tied it to a rope. We started pulling up one person after another, naked, dirty with diesel, as the sea threw them up.

[twitter_share]“How many of you are there?”, I asked. They said 500. I could see 50 in the water. I realized we were dealing with an enormous tragedy. [/twitter_share]

“How long have you been in the sea?” I asked. “Four hours”, they said. But I know that in those conditions in the water an hour seems like a day.

Lucky for them that the wind had given them the scirocco, which had blown them towards land and not out to sea. Those who are familiar with the sea know that you can die with the maestrale blowing. In the meantime we went on pulling people on board: I didn’t realize how many there were until we started to swing from side to side with the weight. I waited for permits, but none came. So I put the engine into gear and returned to the port. While they were disembarking I counted them: there were 47 of them. Fortysix men and just one woman.

This is my story of what happened. If it’s only now that I am telling it that’s only for the good of the island. Our institutions won’t do anything. People who think that they have nothing to do with all this won’t do anything. They showed that in the past and they have shown it in these last few days as well. But if Nations are really as United as they say they are, they must do something about it now. I did what was right. I would do it again tomorrow, any moment, and even more. The 47 survivors come and see me every day. They come and see me at my daughter’s bar, and they say ‘ciao, papà’.

Vito Fiorino is 64. He was born in Bari and brought up in Milan. The first time he came to Lampedusa was on holiday, in 1990. When he returned home he felt like a stranger. He sold his woodwork shop and stopped working in the city where he had lived for almost 50 years. His nostalgia for the island drew him back. He has been a Lampedusan for 13 years now. On 3 October, 2013, he saved 47 people from certain death at sea.I had gone out to cast my nets. This is the season for tuna. I was far out, mare piatto, with a light wind blowing from the west. It was the scirocco.where the sun sets, at six in the morning. My mate heard voices calling. That’s the shearwaters calling, flocks of them, I said to him. Those shouts coming up from the water, I thought they were seagulls. Instead they were men. We didn’t have to even look at each other to decide what we had to do. I took a lifebelt and tied it to a rope. We started pulling up one person after another, naked, dirty with diesel, as the sea threw them up.

[twitter_share]“How many of you are there?”, I asked. They said 500. I could see 50 in the water. I realized we were dealing with an enormous tragedy. [/twitter_share]

“How long have you been in the sea?” I asked. “Four hours”, they said. But I know that in those conditions in the water an hour seems like a day.

Lucky for them that the wind had given them the scirocco, which had blown them towards land and not out to sea. Those who are familiar with the sea know that you can die with the maestrale blowing. In the meantime we went on pulling people on board: I didn’t realize how many there were until we started to swing from side to side with the weight. I waited for permits, but none came. So I put the engine into gear and returned to the port. While they were disembarking I counted them: there were 47 of them. Fortysix men and just one woman.

This is my story of what happened. If it’s only now that I am telling it that’s only for the good of the island. Our institutions won’t do anything. People who think that they have nothing to do with all this won’t do anything. They showed that in the past and they have shown it in these last few days as well. But if Nations are really as United as they say they are, they must do something about it now. I did what was right. I would do it again tomorrow, any moment, and even more. The 47 survivors come and see me every day. They come and see me at my daughter’s bar, and they say ‘ciao, papà’.

Vito Fiorino is 64. He was born in Bari and brought up in Milan. The first time he came to Lampedusa was on holiday, in 1990. When he returned home he felt like a stranger. He sold his woodwork shop and stopped working in the city where he had lived for almost 50 years. His nostalgia for the island drew him back. He has been a Lampedusan for 13 years now. On 3 October, 2013, he saved 47 people from certain death at sea.I had gone out to cast my nets. This is the season for tuna. I was far out, mare piatto, with a light wind blowing from the west. It was the scirocco.where the sun sets, at six in the morning. My mate heard voices calling. That’s the shearwaters calling, flocks of them, I said to him. Those shouts coming up from the water, I thought they were seagulls. Instead they were men. We didn’t have to even look at each other to decide what we had to do. I took a lifebelt and tied it to a rope. We started pulling up one person after another, naked, dirty with diesel, as the sea threw them up.

[twitter_share]“How many of you are there?”, I asked. They said 500. I could see 50 in the water. I realized we were dealing with an enormous tragedy. [/twitter_share]

“How long have you been in the sea?” I asked. “Four hours”, they said. But I know that in those conditions in the water an hour seems like a day.

Lucky for them that the wind had given them the scirocco, which had blown them towards land and not out to sea. Those who are familiar with the sea know that you can die with the maestrale blowing. In the meantime we went on pulling people on board: I didn’t realize how many there were until we started to swing from side to side with the weight. I waited for permits, but none came. So I put the engine into gear and returned to the port. While they were disembarking I counted them: there were 47 of them. Fortysix men and just one woman.

This is my story of what happened. If it’s only now that I am telling it that’s only for the good of the island. Our institutions won’t do anything. People who think that they have nothing to do with all this won’t do anything. They showed that in the past and they have shown it in these last few days as well. But if Nations are really as United as they say they are, they must do something about it now. I did what was right. I would do it again tomorrow, any moment, and even more. The 47 survivors come and see me every day. They come and see me at my daughter’s bar, and they say ‘ciao, papà’.

Vito Fiorino is 64. He was born in Bari and brought up in Milan. The first time he came to Lampedusa was on holiday, in 1990. When he returned home he felt like a stranger. He sold his woodwork shop and stopped working in the city where he had lived for almost 50 years. His nostalgia for the island drew him back. He has been a Lampedusan for 13 years now. On 3 October, 2013, he saved 47 people from certain death at sea.

sws_donmussie

Stop conferring citizenship on the dead, start giving rights to the living.

I was born under the heel of the Ethiopian dictatorship in my country Eritrea, and arrived in Italy in 1992. Not in a boat, but comfortably seated in an aircraft; I left with a regular visa. While power was being concentrated in the hands of a few, and mutual suspicion was growing in the eyes of many, I decided, having been warned by those signs of a war that was growing from the ashes of another one, with fortune on my side and a father in Italy, to try and see what is the destiny of free men. When you are allowed to say what you think, to decide what life you will lead, make your choices without having a gun to your head. I left one Eritrea behind and I found one million and a half, far from Asmara. They crossed the desert on foot, the sea on leaky boats, in the sights of machine guns always ready to shoot. Fugitives escaping from a regime that with one hand keeps them in chains, with the other leads them to the frontier. There are members of the Eritrean government that are involved in the traffic in human beings. Their names have been written, black on white, by the UN, maybe no one has read them. In that corner of the desert that is my country, where we had already celebrated the Liberation in 1991, the battle has never been over. After a history written with 30 years of war and three hundred thousand dead who had fought for the Independence, without knowing that they would win it at the price of liberty, the conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia was concluded in 2000. Thirteen years have passed and four million and a half people think that the war is still on. “We are under attack”, says the regime. “Ethiopia is about to invade us”, says the voice of the one State television station. “Take up your weapons, men and women, from 18 years of age until death”, says the dictator, for whom that frontier that no one has ever erected is a shield and an excuse. The UN has written it, black on white, maybe no one has read it.[twitter_share] In Eritrea today, if your son has escaped, either you pay or you are thrown into prison. If you do not practise the official religion, either you pay or you are thrown into prison. If you are a dissident, you go to prison. If you are a conscientious objector, you stay in prison. The regime finances and trains Somali shababs in Eritrea. The UN has also written this, black on white, in a dossier, maybe no one has ever read it. [/twitter_share]

Sometimes I receive questions from those from whom I would like a reply. I told the Italian government: “Stop conferring citizenship on the dead, start giving rights to the living”. Stop all this salam halek in front of a bloodthirsty tyrant. There is a UN dossier that speaks of the not-too-limpid relations between Italy and Eritrea. Names have been put down, black on white, maybe no one has read them. I told the European government. “If you really want to help them, start from their country of origin”. There is a more blind person than he who does not want to see and that is he who has already seen. If the West writes treatises and is also finding ways of getting round them, it would be better to stop publishing these dead letters of yours altogether. “Five hundred irregular Africans died while trying to reach Italy”, said the regime seven days after October 3rd. They didn’t call them “sons”, they didn’t call them “fellow citizens”. And when the eyes of the world spoke of an Eritrean massacre at sea, the voices of the supporters and financiers of the power machine decided that a little bit of the truth must appear. So the official voices of Eritrea in Italy, important figures of the State, emerged from their Chinese boxes of the political game and were officially invited by the Italian government to participate in the funeral ceremony at Agrigento. Two plus two always makes four, everywhere in the world. It wasn’t relatives of the dead, but sustainers of the regime from which the migrants had been fleeing, who placed fake flowers on their coffins. On the day of the State funeral there were also some young Eritreans present, born in Italy, Sweden, Germany, their heads bowed before the tragedy. These young people, second-generation Eritreans, a European cell indoctrinated by a dictator from whom others of their same age had been desperately fleeing, recited their part. That day they said they were relatives of the victims, instead of simply the victims’new and younger executioners. Brought up in the comfort of democratic Northern Europe, then trained every year in Asmara, living the high life in a land that for others is only dust and death, they believe in those who say you are the new kadri, the new hope for our land. Deceiving also authorities and institutions, bilingual or often trilingual, they pretend to be migrants, mingle with those waiting to apply for asylum, enter the reception centres and draw up lists of fugitives, then file them with a photograph, and send everything off to Asmara. Where the families that have remained behind will be threatened with death lists. This time I have written their names, but no one has read them.

Don Mussie Zerai is a Catholic priest born in Eritrea in 1975. He has lived in Rome since 1992. He has founded an association called Habeshia and helps fugitives who have managed to reach Europe. He is the only person in Italy to have given names to the collaborators of the regime who have filed refugees seeking asylum in Italy in order to keep a hold over families left behind in Eritrea. He has been attacked on various occasions for his declarations. He has never stopped making them.

Shaital is the devil

I’m telling the story of my journey. From Eritrea we followed a road towards Sudan and that’s where I was caught, at Khartoum. They caught us and arrested us. There were 24 of us – there were also 3 Syrians. We were 19 days in that place. After 19 days we arrived at Sabha. There were another 19 men there. There were Somalis waiting for us together with Eritreans and Ethiopians. We were kept hidden all day. We don’t know where we were held – in the Sahara you never know where you are. We were in the Sahara for three weeks. There were Somalis keeping guard over us. There were other men who had been kidnapped, I don’t know how many there were. They took everything from us, money, cell-phones, even our clothes. They beat us, and we were naked, they with their boots. The guards were Somalis and Sudanese.

For their ransom they ask the Syrians for 1,500 dollars, us 3,000 to 4,000 dollars. We don’t understand why. Why they make all this difference between us, if we have all been kidnapped. They are almost all of them black, from Libya and Chad. They sell us as if we were just so much meat. Then Libyans of another clan, with fair skin, took charge of us across the Sahara to half way. There were many women among us. The women they exchanged them among themselves as if they were playthings. For the women it is worse. They choose them, they take them, they do stupid things with them (they rape them). They say: “this one, this one and this one” and they become their personal entertainment. They don’t let them go. None of us say anything. You can’t say anything. They are armed, we are naked. So your heart bleeds for them and you can’t do anything. These men have diseases, they have HIV and don’t use any protection when they are doing their things. They ask you, Ethiopian or Eritrean? If you are Eritrean, you are Christian and so they treat you worse. You can’t react in the Sahara. If you react they shoot you in the knee, in the head, and leave you in the desert. They can make you disappear just how they like. We can’t go on any longer: we’ve got no strength left.

I don’t know the name of the person who sold us, a Libyan stood guard over us. Those from Chad caught the people. There are also Eritreans who do that job, they help them. Ethiopians as well. I can remember some names: Vereket, from Khartoum, Isha, an Eritrean whose job was on the telephone, Abu, a Somali, the one who delivered us at Fukru. What really scares me most is that they are Eritreans. That Eritreans are working with them, that they are selling their own people. They beat us too. We pay 3,000 dollars, others 4,000 dollars. Our families pay. I don’t know what the difference is between us and the others; it’s something horrible, they divide people into ethnic groups, because we pay more. The black-skinned Libyans sell us to the fair-skinned Libyans. First one of our girls became the plaything of the group, as if she were their woman. She never left with us. She stayed there to be their plaything. You don’t say anything not even then, you clench your fists, and just hope. After a month in the Sahara you can’t even speak, imagine if you can react. In the Sahara it’s like coming to the house of the Devil. There are many of us here who came out of the prisons. We were delivered into the Sahara. I can’t fit it into my head, what I saw there. They were on the phone all the time with one another. One with the other.

When we got to Libya, when we were on Libyan soil, I thought we had arrived. There I found another 150 people who had been kidnapped. In Libya they took the girls during the night and did what they wanted with them. The Somali under arrest was there. Anyone who tried to escape was kicked with boots in the head or beaten with a belt. What they did to the girls I don’t even want to say. They didn’t kill us because they needed us for their money.

The Somali who was arrested in Italy was there too. He’s not a person, he’s the Devil. The one who accompanied us for the last part of the way was called Shaital. I tried to escape, they caught me and said, ”See this bullet? It’s for you if you try that again”. It’s a pity I don’t speak Arabic, I would have been able to understand the many things that they said among themselves. In Libya if you escape you can’t go to the police because the police work with them. When they have your ransom money you are of no further use to them. There were 340 people at the port. In Libya they sell and peddle people. There’s no government. First you end up in the hands of those people from Chad or Somalia, then in the hands of the Libyans. They’ve arrested the Somali now, let’s hope that with time all of them pay. We left our souls behind while we were crossing the desert. Before we left in the boat they kept us near the airport, which is next to the army barracks. Everyone knows what goes on there, everyone can see. Everyone knows what happens, it’s like a school. I don’t know how many people were left behind or died. At times they ask for a ransom even for dead people and ask for the money for their crossing in the boat. I have heard prison warders asking relatives for money for people who were already dead. I knew at least seven or eight of them. Here in Lampedusa there were ten of us who had been kidnapped. Four men and six women. The four men are here, the six women were left at sea. They died at sea on 3 October.

This testimony was given by an Eritrean refugee in the Tigrinya language. It was translated by an Italo-Eritrean. The Tigrinya are mainly Christians and live in the region in which the Habesha culture developed historically.

October the 3rd, the shipwreck in the words of a survivor

We departed from Libya on the date of the 2nd October, at midnight of the 2nd October, and we crossed the Mediterranean sea for about 24 hours; after 24 hours we arrived at the beach of the Lampedusa island, and we arrived at Lampedusa beach which is about 800-900 metres from the beach. We waited for some rescue, for someone to permit us, we expected to permit us, but unfortunately at 3 o’clock, we arrived at 2 o’clock a.m., that was when we arrived at the beach, at 3 two boats came to us, at that time, and the bigger one came to us and started to circle us without shouting nothing, they simply discussed to each other the boat – I don’t know what they discussed – they left us. Some people tried to identify them, and they seemed like those boats that are like the Guardian boats because they have a white colour, and some people said a white colour with a red – a red base, and then we waited for rescue, and all the people said, as soon as they saw us they may return to us and they will help us, no problem, we discussed like that to each other.
But unfortunately after two hours, the tragedy occurred. The boat started to fill with water, after this water we were afraid of filling the water to the boat,  and that’s why we tried to make a light for help, but nobody came to help us.
After we did all these things one of the guys, the captain tried to fire up the blanket that is by using gasoline, and immediately when he fired it a big light is coming, and all the people assumed that this fire is not from the blanket, it should be from the boat, so that’s why we are afraid of the fire and we tried to rush from the left side to the right side of the boat. Immediately within five seconds the boat totally disappeared, so we shouted, but nobody can help us. So we swam.
We swam for four, four and a half hours, around four and a half to five hours, still until 7.30 nobody came to help us, but at 7.30 Mr Vito, a fisherman, with his friends came to the area, and he saw us while we shouted, just while we shouted help us, help us, and he saw us and tried to rescue people, around 47 people were rescued by him, and also Mr Vito called the policeman, and he asked, Why – he told the policemen – why they took 50 minutes to come out, even Mr Vito told them. I don’t know why.
That’s why I told my friends had to swim for three hours, because they didn’t get any support from the Army, they sink in the sea, they remained dead. This is a horrible event, there is no support for us here, nothing here is taken for us, no clinic, no healthcare, I don’t know why, many people suffer from diseases and they ask to be transferred to hospital, but still they did not get this.

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