News from Lampedusa - a personal report (part 3)

This is the third in a series of reports from a NoBorders activist in Lampedusa. (Read Part 1 and Part 2 ).

Yesterday [20/03/11] we woke up around 7 because someone was shouting from a megaphone on a car telling people to go and occupy the port to stop the arrival of red cross tents probably for at least 10000 people. The woman at the megaphone is one of the locals that want to save the economy in Lampedusa and want that the Tunisian are transferred somewhere else in Italy. We went there to check what was happening. The people of Lampedusa always try to explain to the Tunisians that they are not against them and they just want them to be transferred quickly anywhere else in Italy. They also wanted the Tunisians to join but most of them were too scared to get in trouble.

At the end they had to let they unload the tents because otherwise the ferry boat would not leave with their fishes and it would have been a problem for the many fishermen.

I met some Tunisians guys that were sleeping at the port and guided me around. There are about 1000 people sleeping there: inside the port there is not even space to walk. Some of them didn't find space inside an were sleeping outside. None was given proper blankets. They had wet clothes when they arrived but were not given a change. Since when they arrived (about 4 days) they were given almost no food. A guy told me that they had been given one litre of milk to share amongst 5 men. Some of them were laying with painful legs or headache because of the cold. They say doctors go there but don't do much. I'll go there now and bring some aspirines. I do not know what else I could do. We have already given aspirines in the past days to guys that we know since many of them tell us they are getting sick.

Arrivals continued also yesterday. During the day, some arrived totally wet because it rained a lot while they were landing. Of course it took a while to find them something to cover themselves. The police (there were many at the port because of the demonstration) gave them their uniforms and their lunches A whole family with a small kid, some minors and some very young women arrived. They brought the women and the minors in a building of the council. I saw them arriving. Many were walking bare foot and were half naked.

In all this catastrophe, one positive thing. For a couple of days three solicitors that deal with immigration law were around. Yesterday in the afternoon I told many Tunisians that we could give them some legal advice on their situation. just a few of them, maybe about ten, came to the meeting. Many of them just want to go to their families in France and think that once they are there their families will help them.

Save The Children and the UNCHR operators do not tell them that they could claim asylum and otherwise if they just say they need a job they won't have many chances to stay in Europe. The guys that came to the information meeting all had very strong cases. They all were at the anti-government demonstrations where they had been beaten and also before they had political problems. They said that even if Ben Ali, the authority is still controlled by him because all his friends and relatives are there. It is very sad to hear that the Jasmin revolution is ending on a boat towards Europe.

Unfortunately the solicitors will leave soon but told us that they'll try to get other solicitors from other Italian cities. Unfortunately free legal advice is not a something easy to find in Italy.

In the evening we tried to get inside the detention centre but the soldiers patrolling around found out that we were not Tunisians and escorted us till the fences to make sure we would not get inside.

Many tunisians always tell us they feel very very drowsy after they eat...