Browse content similar to The Invasion of Lampedusa. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
Since February 2011, hundreds of boats packed with migrants
have set off from the uprisings in North Africa.
They face a treacherous 70-mile journey
to the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa.
For many North Africans,
this six-mile stretch of rock is the gateway to Europe.
Many boats have sunk and over a thousand migrants have died
trying to reach its shores.
They're just a few of the estimated 300,000 that the Italian government
warn may be heading to Europe in the wake of the Arab Spring.
This film tells the story of how these first few arrivals
have already caused breakdown on the island of Lampedusa...
..and how the crisis here
threatens to bring Europe's immigration policy to its knees.
The tourist island of Lampedusa is famous
for its crystal-clear waters and remote coves and beaches.
It's March 2011
and the island's 6,000 residents are getting ready
for the crucial summer season,
when wealthy tourists jet in from Italy and abroad.
The responsibility of promoting the island's tourist economy
falls to one man.
Bernadino De Rubeis has been the island's mayor for four years
and, at nearly 7ft tall, he's a familiar figure around town.
TRANSLATION: Everyone calls me Dino, not mayor
because I am one of them, I am everyone's mayor.
I'm here all year round, I know everyone, I love everyone.
Just up the road from Dino's office is jeweller to the tourists,
-I was tired of the city.
I decided to live here in Lampedusa.
I love the sea, I love the calmness, the peace.
This is a peaceful island.
Our tourist season normally starts at Easter, around mid-April,
and ends at the end of October.
But now it's March and we need to clean the island up,
refurbish the buildings, sort everything out.
But this year, Lampedusa is attracting
an entirely different kind of foreign traveller.
With only 70 miles separating its beaches from the uprisings of the Arab Spring,
the island has become the first port of call for Tunisians
leaving North Africa in search of a better life overseas.
-As a port in the Mediterranean,
Lampedusa has always been a transit point for immigrants.
We are always very welcoming to them.
We give them what we can, blankets, food.
We do all we can and more.
With the revolution in Tunis, all immigration agreements with the EU
have collapsed and word is out that this year,
things are going to be different.
With Italian TV news starting to run regular items
about migrants arriving in Lampedusa,
Dino knows that this could spell disaster for the summer season.
Cameras came here because of the phenomenon, this unique phenomenon,
and they showed Lampedusa to people who had never heard of it, to the whole world.
But the world must know Lampedusa is not just about migrants,
it's also a place of tourism which lives off tourism.
A mile away from the cafes and shops of the town
and hidden behind the hills,
is Lampedusa's Migrant Reception Centre.
It was closed in 2009, but was forced to reopen this year
to cater for the sudden arrival of the Tunisians.
We are good pupils, education, we are with diploma, graduation,
but we not have a chance to have a good job,
a good life with the minimum.
Would it not be a good time to stay in Tunisia, when there's democracy?
It's just a title. Just a word.
But not in reality.
New arrivals are processed, given food, shoes and cigarettes
and then moved into dormitories to await specially chartered flights
to detention centres in Sicily.
The centre was built to hold 850 people,
but by early March, there are already 1,000 men here.
Nearly all have come looking for work.
With no agreement with Tunis to send them back, once on the mainland,
they'll probably be on the streets within weeks,
able to travel through Europe's open borders.
Most of them will head straight for France.
In France, I work, and I have much money.
It's better, you look, clothes, foods, activities,
respect from others. Money is not all the world, you know.
We need just a chance, not more, just one chance.
So far, Italian politicians in Rome
have kept their distance from Lampedusa's Tunisian invasion.
But for far right French politician and presidential hopeful Marine Le Pen,
the chance to capitalise on the situation proves irresistible.
With an international press pack in tow, she declares
that it's time to close Europe's borders.
Le Pen is currently campaigning to be France's next president,
and is keen to abandon the Schengen Agreement that allows free travel within Europe.
Away from the foreign press pack,
local Lampedusians have prepared their own welcoming committee.
-We are awaiting the arrival of Madame Le Pen,
to welcome her properly, to make her understand that, in Lampedusa,
there are also people who don't think like her
and they're ready to shout it out loud.
Paola La Rosa is part of a local group that's dedicated
to welcoming migrants and promoting cultural integration.
-Europe and the West, as well as the United States,
got really enthusiastic about the revolutionary movements
that brought democracy to North Africa, to Arab countries
like Syria and Yemen.
The hypocrisy lies in the fact they didn't understand
that these peoples, these guys, had a revolution in order to be free.
In their concept of freedom,
a fundamental element of this freedom is the freedom to move,
to be able to be free to look for a better future somewhere else.
The West doesn't like this so much.
The West would like them to be free, but at home.
"Now you've finally got your freedom,
"you don't need to come looking for happiness in our countries.
"You can enjoy your freedom at home.
"Stop coming here and threatening our way of life."
Over the following three days,
26 boats carrying almost 2,000 migrants arrive in Lampedusa.
They are nearly all young men,
who paid around £500 to be shipped across by smugglers like this one.
And these men told us that many more were on their way.
With such a sudden spike in numbers, the centre is overflowing.
There are now almost 3,000 Tunisians in Lampedusa,
and with reports of tensions running high in the centre,
Italian guards are turning a blind eye
to men jumping the fence and taking day trips into town.
In the past, migrants were kept in the centre
and away from the eyes of locals and tourists.
For many of the islanders, this is their worst nightmare.
Look who's walking around.
We're used to seeing familiar faces,
people we talk to, always at ease with each other.
Now we're surrounded by strangers.
I'm feeling like a prisoner on my island.
We're all free, normally. Everyone knows each other.
But you can't walk alone at night with all these African men around, absolutely not.
With hundreds of young Tunisian men filling up the handful of bars and cafes in town,
Stella decides enough is enough.
A demonstration about the growing number of migrants has been called in the town square,
and the community has turned out in force.
Some are beginning to suspect that Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi
is deliberately turning a blind eye to Lampedusa's problems,
and that images of a small Italian town overrun with migrants
may actually win support for his anti-immigration policies.
Former Lampedusian councillor Anthony Papalardo steps in to address the crowd.
The speech has touched a nerve with his audience.
And Paola's group are shocked by the overwhelming local support for Papalardo's views.
TRANSLATION: If I had the strength,
I would go out there and talk to as many people as possible,
to make them see them understand that their slogans
are deeply racist and illiberal.
I saw one of the banners in the square and it left me feeling empty.
"Send them back now."
The key is to work out who's responsible for what's happening on Lampedusa.
The only party responsible is our government, which is incapable of managing the situation.
It's really very simple.
It's true 10,000 migrants have arrived.
But what are 10,000 migrants? Nothing!
Especially 10,000 migrants who don't even want to stay in Italy.
Even if they did want to stay in Italy, or even Sicily,
it would still be nothing.
But it becomes a massive problem if they stay on Lampedusa.
It's five days since we first met Ali in the centre, and since then,
42 boats carrying over 3,000 migrants have arrived in Lampedusa.
Ali tells us that the centre has descended into chaos.
OK, when we look the Centro from this place,
we feel the photo is happy,
but when you go inside, you discover something not good.
Normally off limits to journalists, he says that no-one is in control
and he can escort us in to show us how bad the conditions have become.
With no room to sleep, hundreds of men have been forced to shelter
under plastic sheets and bin bags.
Some were even sleeping in the toilet blocks.
OK. He say, I prefer to come back to my country because it's better than what I live there.
No beds, no good foods.
We still there five days
and the last night we have much rain there.
It's not a good food.
He say, "Just let me go to work."
This is my daily way when I leave the Centro.
Ali is one of the lucky ones
and is being evacuated on a flight to Sicily.
-OK, I think I have to go.
My travel is in this time.
I leave the Centro.
-Good luck, Ali.
And thank you, BBC, for this chance to tell the truth, all the world.
-We're on our way to see the women...
and some children,
who are guests in my mother's house.
Away from the centre,
some migrants are living in somewhat better conditions.
Dino's family owns a number of luxury tourist villas,
and in the absence of paying guests,
he's taken in the women and children who've arrived on the island.
Our migrant children, and this week...
I know only a few, unfortunately.
I'd save them all if I could. It's not easy.
This is Zakaria.
So here we have an entire family. Husband, wife, the little one.
Here's the grandmother.
This mother, the old lady, went through a long journey
so she wouldn't be separated from the family.
TRANSLATION: This is one of the youngsters
I found in the middle of the street.
Found in the middle of the street with a bottle of water, crying.
We gave him some food and brought him here.
TRANSLATION: They're eating. They've made the food themselves.
I will ask charities and the church to go shopping for them.
So, instead of eating pasta all the time, which bores them,
now they can eat their own Tunisian food.
They have enough space here to be comfortable.
TRANSLATION: And so my heart led me
to make this big humanitarian gesture.
If everyone did the same, there wouldn't be migrants on the streets.
Italy has six boats and a helicopter
patrolling the waters between Lampedusa and North Africa.
Giovanni Monteleone is a commander in the Italian Coast Guard.
And, over the last seven years, he and his crew have rescued
over 5,000 migrants as they tried to reach the island.
-Our feeling, it's a beautiful feeling
to be able to see people change,
to see them go from being worried and frightened to being relaxed,
maybe even happy.
Once they're on-board the boat, they feel safe.
It is a beautiful feeling.
It makes you feel...valuable.
Today, local fishermen have reported up to seven boats
on their way to Lampedusa.
Many boats are unseaworthy,
and part of Giovanni's job is to check on them.
Under international law,
any boat in distress must be rescued or escorted to shore.
But, knowing this, Tunisian smugglers often pretend
their engines are broken, or that their boat is sinking.
Seeing that this boat is relatively seaworthy
and its engine is still running, Giovanni directs it to Lampedusa.
Within three hours, this boat made it safely to port.
Giovanni heads further out to sea,
in search of other boats that may be at greater risk.
Eight miles further out
is another boat with three sick people on board.
These 110 men are among the lucky ones.
The United Nations estimates that this year alone,
nearly 1,500 people have drowned while trying to make this journey.
-It's the first time this has ever happened.
It's something that's never happened in Lampedusa, a welcome like this.
But there's always a first time.
-They're right, but so are we.
And this is not the way.
I hear what they're saying. They speak for their island.
They're sick of people coming every day.
1,000, 2,000, 3,000.
If it was my country, I'd probably do the same.
With the boat unable to dock, it's a triumph for the protestors,
and, for the first time in Lampedusa's history,
the port has been blockaded against migrants.
Giovanni must take them out to sea until the crowd can be cleared.
But the crowd isn't going anywhere.
After two hours, word spreads that a landing area has been prepared
on the other side of the harbour, at the island's larger ferry port.
Local mum Rosy decides to take charge.
The crowd moves quickly around the harbour to the ferry port,
to stop Giovanni's boat from landing.
But when a line of riot police prevent them from getting near the landing area,
the demonstration gets out of control.
Protected by a line of armed police,
the Tunisians are quietly brought ashore, as the rain begins to fall.
Long into the night,
the Lampedusians and the Tunisians are kept apart.
That night, 1,106 migrants landed on the island.
With the migration centre full,
and Lampedusians unwilling to let them in, most are trapped here
to sleep where they can at the ferry port.
There are only two chemical toilets, no food or water
and just bed sheets for blankets,
and with nowhere to go, these men soon get desperate.
Dino the mayor is forced to take things into his own hands.
The building of the port houses the Coastguard's headquarters and a turtle conservation centre.
Overnight, newly arrived Tunisians have forced open doors
and used the building to shelter from the rain.
This is the office of the captains of the coastguards.
The captains of the vessels who rescue migrants at sea.
E allora. Mi saluto. Ciao.
Four days, 25 boats and 2,400 migrants later,
Italian politicians in Rome
have still done nothing to relieve the pressure on Lampedusa.
With the centre and the port both overflowing,
new arrivals are forced to seek shelter
on the hill above the ferry port.
The Lampedusians soon dub it the Hill of Shame.
Two newcomers on the hill are Yusuf and his friend Adel.
From beginning I know all the people don't like to stay here.
We don't like Italy because Italy is nothing
compared to England, Germany, France.
The three countries, but Italy is nothing.
Italy is as Tunisia, I'm sure. Me, I like to go to France.
But my dream is to be in England.
From when I'm young, when I was a kid.
I know many things about England.
But England, it's so, so difficult.
So step by step, one day, I will be there, I hope so.
-I'm glad they had a safe journey and I'm happy they've come.
They're my Tunisian brothers, and they haven't died at sea.
They've made it here safe, thank God.
Across the water in Libya, a war is raging.
And Colonel Gaddafi announces he's abandoning all immigration agreements with the EU,
and threatens to flood Europe with migrants.
-You can't stop immigration. You can't stop people who want to move, no matter what.
You can't stop it.
At a moment like this, we're dealing with history.
An upheaval in North Africa that really could bring in a new world order.
A reworking of everything we were taking for granted.
Finally, Rome responds.
The Italian Ministry of the Interior has sent some tents and portable toilets to the island,
with orders to build a tented encampment for the migrants.
But another day brings another protest.
Fearing that a refugee camp would just attract more migrants
and ruin Lampedusa's image, the islanders are having none of it.
-We are staying here. We are not moving for any reason. We will not let the trucks through.
The mayor is on our side. He's declared a state of emergency
and a council meeting is going to be held here.
But despite his promises to the crowd, Dino is under pressure
from Italy's Minister of the Interior
and police chiefs in Palermo.
After an hour of phonecalls behind the scenes,
he is ordered to take everything off the ferry.
As he prepares to break the news,
police reinforcements are brought in to help.
As a compromise, Dino has negotiated that the containers of aid
will be brought on to the island,
but will remain unopened on the quayside.
YELLING AND ARGUING
Stella agrees with this compromise, but she's in a minority.
After more than eight hours' negotiation,
the containers of tents and toilets are finally driven on to the quayside,
where they will be held under guard by the Italian army.
And, as if to taunt the nearby protestors,
as the ferry prepares to leave,
another boat arrives to take its place.
It's the first of six that will arrive in the next five hours,
bringing 800 more Tunisians to Lampedusa.
For the first time in the island's history,
foreign migrants now outnumber Italians.
-I'm tired, tired.
Tired because it's a massive phenomenon,
a historical phenomenon.
It's enormously difficult
to deal with this daily humanitarian emergency,
an emergency that we find difficult to deal with
because the numbers are just so big.
The next day, three more abandoned Tunisian fishing boats
are added to the growing pile in Lampedusa.
The authorities are flying 200 Tunisians off the island
to the mainland every day.
But even these small numbers are causing political standoffs in Europe.
Knowing where most of the migrants are heading,
France threatens to close its border with Italy.
Silvio Berlusconi has a public row with French President Sarkozy,
saying that this is a problem for Europe, not just Italy.
On the island, the locals feel frustrated.
Finally, over a month after the crisis began,
the first senior Italian politician flies to Lampedusa -
President of Sicily, Rafaelle Lombardo,
has come to hear the varied complaints of the islanders.
Knowing that Lombardo has the ear of senior politicians in Rome,
Dino decides to make a stand.
But just as Dino is trying to put pressure on Rome,
Rome is on the phone.
A call from Prime Minister Berlusconi himself.
THE ROOM FALLS SILENT
The ever-growing number of migrants on the Hill of Shame
are making politicians nervous all over Europe.
No-one seems to know what to do with them.
Around the EU, states have begun to drop hints
that they're considering abandoning Europe's Schengen agreement,
and closing their internal borders.
But for Adel and his friends, all that matters is staying warm.
Down in town, there's a breakthrough.
For the first time in Lampedusa's history,
the island is to welcome the nation's serving Prime Minister.
Silvio Berlusconi has come to answer his critics.
Rosy Policardo considers herself Berlusconi's number one fan.
TRANSLATION: So finally the Prime Minister's coming.
We've been waiting for him for a long time.
Let's hope he'll give us some good news
and everything will get back to normal.
We hope so, I trust my president.
Do you know what we need?
Photos of Lampedusa.
I could go to the print shop now and get something.
Berlusconi has been busy of late,
fending off allegations of political corruption
and sex with underage girls at his notorious "Bunga Bunga" parties.
But Dino's determined to keep Berlusconi's problems off the agenda.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
CROWD CHANTING: Silvio! Silvio! Silvio! Silvio! Silvio!
FERRY HORN BLARES
Two day later, Yusuf and Adel will be given space on one of six ships
taking migrants to Sicily on Berlusconi's orders.
We have to go now, to regroup our...
Our group, and hope that we leave this...
This magic place(!) Thanks to God.
And merci bien, thanks.
I wear all my clothes, all of them.
Tous se porte.
One, two, three, four...
Five, and six and seven.
C'est la merde.
Berlusconi kept his word.
Within days, the island is cleared of Tunisians,
and Lampedusians turn out to see them off.
Within a week, Yusuf, Ali and Adel would all be in Paris.
500 million people live in the European Union,
but the arrival of 30,000 migrants
triggered a profound political crisis
TRANSLATION: Isn't adapting our European institutions a normal thing to do?
-Controls must be possible in extreme situations.
-We have to move quickly from words to action.
This is what's missing.
France and Denmark closed their internal borders.
I think that you have seen a lot of problems
concerning cross-border criminal activities.
Paola remains convinced that the breakdown in Lampedusa
was manufactured to win support for anti-immigration policies.
TRANSLATION: When they were forced to stay on the island,
and started threatening the island's image,
people's attitudes changed.
We started to see these people as a threat, a real threat.
This is the situation that government policies created on this island,
to manufacture in people some kind of fear, terror,
at the invasion of the other -
of the criminal, of the stranger, of the bad guy -
of the other.
Two months later, and the islanders are hoping
that the tourists will still come this year.
But they know that the next wave of migrants is on its way,
this time from the war in Libya.
With boats of refugees already arriving, the crisis in Lampedusa
has shown how unprepared Europe is for the fallout of the Arab Spring.
TRANSLATION: We're all scared.
Let's remember that Africa is in turmoil, they're at war.
We should shut the borders like Europe is planning to do.
Italy should do the same.
We can't get them through the door of the Mediterranean
and keep them here in Italy - we don't have enough space.
-We are a welcoming people, and not racists.
This is different from Europe, whose behaviour is questionable.
You could call them dismissive, even perhaps racist.
We're still welcoming people here,
but the rest of Europe must do the same.
Europe's politicians now face the biggest challenge ever
to the EU's policy on immigration -
will they stand alone, or act together?
Subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]