A Mediterranean Sea in which the exchanges between the continents became so marginal (except the strategic oil) really gives the impression to have changed its nature. More grave than the economic, is the cultural fracture. Against a Mediterranean that denied itself, practicing ethnic cleansing until 1999, two increasing movements are recreating a multiethnic Mediterranean: migrations going from south to north and tourism proceeding in the opposite direction.
Scipione Guarracino, Il Mediterraneo da Omero a Braudel
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During the civil war in Libya, the Malta-Misrata route was the only open way to supply the rebel areas. Every Thursday the cargo Entisar left Malta full of food and medicine, collected by an NGO to supply the martyr city. Libyan businessmen, professionals and doctors expatriated in the UK, USA and Dubai, were the main contributors to the cause. They too used the Entisar (revolution in arabic) as transportation to go visit their relatives in Misrata. Every Sunday the Entisar returned to Malta full of injured soldiers.
RAS JEDIR - ZARZIS - LAMPDUSA
De l’autre côté de la mer,
Tu enterres les corps de mes frères,
Je sais, je sais ce que tu ressens,
A force de l’avoir fait souvent...
Mohsen Lihidheb, Entre Zarzis et Lampedusa
The volatility originated by the Arab revolutions dramatically increased the immigration flows from the the Southern shore. In 2011, more than 200,000 fearful migrant workers flee the uprising in Libya, flowing into Tunisia at the Ras Jedir border station. From there most of them undertook the routes of the Strait of Sicily that connect Tunisia to the island of Lampedusa, the extreme southern border of Europe. Mohsen Lihidheb, the postman of the Tunisian city of Zarzis, has been collecting in his yard the belongings of hundreds of shipwrecked migrants brought in by the current. On the other side of the Strait, confiscated migrant boats piled beside the football field of Lampedusa create another involuntary monument to the fallen along the route.
Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold.
Acts Of the Apostles 28:1-1
Since the early two thousands, Malta has also been subjected to massive disembarkations of sub-Saharian migrants. However, we should call them shipwrecks, considering that all of the boats were rescued by the Maltese coastguard while heading to Lampedusa. Most migrants arriving in Malta are entitled to the refugee status, but the UNHCR procedures are extremely slow and the number of certificates given annually is insignificant.
I understand why they are racist, they haven’t travelled and been exposed to things. They don’t know the world, I’m 23 and I’ve travelled to many countries and learned different languages. I’m not afraid of what I don’t know
Ibrahim, 23, Malian migrant
Crotone, Italy, is another main hub for asylum seekers, hosting the biggest refugee camp in Europe. Every night the docks and the train station are the only shelter for hundreds of migrants forced to come back to Crotone, where they were first registered, at every permit renewal. The renewal procedures may take months.
I entered the border mixed up with the smugglers; I tried many times before and I eventually made it. I didn't know anybody in Melilla so I went to the shelter for minors. At the beginning it wasn't easy, everybody bothers you when you are a rookie. One day a fellow came to me and told me that we were wasting time at the shelter and that we should try to jump to the Peninsula. We brought some food with us and we went to the port. We lay low until 3 am and then jumped into a container, but police came around with a dog and detected us. Once out they told us to jump in the water to be sure we weren't going to try it again. They also told us: why do you want to go to Spain? There's the crisis there, you wouldn't find a job anyway!
The migration of non-accompanied minors is an even more puzzling issue. In the Spanish enclave of Melilla this phenomenon has a long history. In controversial European regulations the interest of the minor clashes against the interest for the expulsion of illegal immigrants. Since they sneak through the three razor wire barriers that isolate the enclave, the Moroccan children suffer these contradictions on their skin. Once in Melilla, they all struggle to somehow get inside a ferry heading to continental Spain, in the hope of making a better living.
Some people in Turkey told me that life was better in Greece, and from Greece it would have been easy to go to other countries like Italy... they were lying! But I believed them and I paid $ 2000 to bring me to Lesvos Island, in Greece. We made it on a little rowboat, it was very dangerous, I was so afraid, although it took only 2 or 3 hours. In Lesvos I was put in a detention camp for a week. When I was there they told me that I could lodge for asylum and I could receive a red card. But I didn’t because I don’t want to stay in Greece. If you lodge for asylum here they fingerprint you and then you are forced to stay here, if you are caught in another country they send you back here.
Morteza Hamiri, 19
A similar condition is lived by the young Afghan migrants living in Patras, waiting for their chance to jump on a truck embarking to Italy. They left their homeland at an early age to escape the forced recruitment imposed by the Taliban. After a perilous journey they reach Greece, where they become victims of widespread racism.
MAP ON IRREGULAR AND MIXED MIGRATION ROUTES
LIST OF DOCUMENTED REFUGEE DEATHS (2012)
Click on the page to scroll the list below