A staggering total of 7018 migrants and refugees arrived in Lampedusa last week. Most of them are Sub-Saharan migrants who departed from Tunisia, where the current political situation leaves them with almost no other choice but to flee the country.
While the EU has signed a new partnership with Tunisia, promising 105 million Euros for border control and other measures to prevent irregular migration, Tunisian police, military, and national guard have been committing serious and horrific abuses against Black African migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. It is, therefore, no surprise that departures from Tunisia and arrival numbers in Lampedusa have increased significantly, leaving the island under a lot of pressure and pushing its reception facilities to the limits.
The island’s hotspot, originally designed to accommodate no more than 400 individuals, found itself overwhelmed as it hosted up to 3700 migrants – nearly ten times its maximum capacity. Increasingly, people manage to escape the dire conditions inside the overcrowded hotspot, seeking brief respite on the streets of Lampedusa until they are caught by the police and escorted back.
Evacuations from Lampedusa hotspot
To manage the current situation amid ongoing arrivals, large-scale emergency evacuations and transfers from the hotspot of Lampedusa to Sicily have become almost routine.
During one such major transfer, I was able to document some disturbing scenes unfolding in front of me. People were left exposed for hours in unbearable temperatures on the deck of the massive Navy ship, Cassiopea. As authorities seemingly struggled to cope with the situation, they distributed emergency blankets to create improvised makeshift sun-covers. This scene served as a stark reminder of the urgent need for better preparation to support those seeking refuge.
It is my goal to raise awareness about the hardships people must endure along their perilous journey for a better life and advocate for humane treatment in Tunisia but also in Europe.
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