Back in 2011 we posted extensive coverage of the “Camp of the Saints” crisis in Italy and Malta in the wake of the Arab Spring, as hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants flooded into the islands of the southern Mediterranean and the southern coasts of Italy and Sicily.
The flood of refugees abated somewhat in 2012, but is still ongoing. During the migration season — the summer months, when the Med is fairly calm — hundreds of people in rickety boats show up off the coast of Lampedusa and have to be rescued, housed, clothed, and fed, according to EU asylum regulations. No matter that they riot, vandalize, commit robberies, and terrorize the locals — they are “refugees”, and their needs come first.
As Pope Francis prepares to visit Lampedusa next week, Enza Ferreri takes a look at the immigration crisis on the island and what it portends for the rest of Europe.
Pope’s First Official Visit Is to Lampedusa, Tiny Sicilian Island Flooded by African Migrants
by Enza Ferreri
What “El Inglés” predicted in an imagined scenario on Gates of Vienna — a civil war in Denmark caused by the insoluble conflict of ideas, values and principles between Islam and the West, immigrants and natives — has already occurred on a small scale in Lampedusa. This island, whose population can be easily overwhelmed, could be a microcosm of the future of Europe.
The island of Lampedusa, the southernmost appendix of Italy in the Mediterranean, has the bad luck of being geographically too close for comfort to the Muslim world. Its history is testament to this.
In 813 AD, despite a 10-year truce signed in 805 by the Emir Ibrahim ibn al-Aghlab with Byzantine Sicily’s governor Constantine, the Arabs, who had not kept another previous truce established in 728 and many others since, proceeded to break this one too and, after attacking Sardinia and Corsica, sacked and devastated minor Italian islands including Lampedusa. The rest of Sicily was conquered by Muslim armies later.
After all, as the Encyclopaedia of Islam — considered as the reference work on Islam in the Muslim and non-Muslim academic worlds alike — says:
The duty of the jihad exists as long as the universal domination of Islam has not been attained. Peace with non-Muslim nations is, therefore, a provisional state of affairs only; the chance of circumstances alone can justify it temporarily. Furthermore there can be no question of genuine peace treaties with these nations; only truces, whose duration ought not, in principle, to exceed ten years, are authorized. But even such truces are precarious, inasmuch as they can, before they expire, be repudiated unilaterally should it appear more profitable for Islam to resume the conflict.
Things have changed since the 9th century: Muslims are not so strong militarily, and invasion and destruction take subtler forms.
Now they come to our shores carrying a white flag and a refugee label, demanding to be housed, fed and have all their needs met.
This, starting in 2011 after the beginning of the “Arab Spring”, was a pseudo-humanitarian crisis. The illegals overwhelmingly were not refugees; they were economic migrants in search of what they probably thought were easy jobs or welfare benefits in Europe. Tunisians should have remained in their country, to help rebuild the economy there.
Italy has been justly criticized for mishandling the situation and allowing the illegals to remain and to enter the rest of the EU through temporary visas. To really help the Tunisians, it would have been more useful to ship the illegals back to where they came from, after — if at all possible — establishing who among them was a real asylum seeker in danger of persecution.
Allowing our cities and towns to be flooded with Third World immigrants is as misguided as helping benefit scroungers, or giving international aid that is only going to make the receiving countries’ local tyrants richer to better oppress and use violence against their people; it is as unwise as giving money to alcoholics and drug addicts to buy their drug of choice.
Charity does not have to be a knee-jerk reaction dictated by misplaced feelings of guilt; it has to be accompanied by a rational evaluation. Not all charity helps its recipients.
Paolo Lo Iudice, the blogger of Vivere in Tunisia about Italians living in Tunisia, says regarding the illegal migrants: “These people are Tunisian but do not love Tunisia. We have stayed here to defend our homes, jobs, projects and people in whom we believe, we love this land although we are not Tunisian. They should be ashamed of themselves, instead of rolling up their sleeves and building a new Tunisia they went to Italy spending 2,000 dinars just to get more money, most of them have all they need here in Tunisia, there is only one thing they lack…the desire to work”.
A year later, the so-called emergency was still not over in Lampedusa, with illegals having continued to arrive during the spring and summer from Sub-Saharan African countries such as Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia as well.
The difference was that the island’s reception centre, destroyed by a fire started by the illegals the previous year, did not exist anymore, so the migrants had to be accommodated in hotels and tourist villages which are virtually the only economic resources on the island.
In the meantime, the so-called “humanitarian” one-year temporary visas issued in 2011 to tens of thousands North Africans had expired, but the latter had not been repatriated. Most were still thought to be in Italy.
Even now, two years afterwards, “refugees” are still landing on Lampedusa’s shores. Only two days ago, over 200 of them arrived on a boat after being rescued and transported to the island by the Navy on the Coast Guard patrol boats, ahead of Pope Francis’ visit to Lampedusa on Monday July 8, his first official trip. Anther 80 immigrants were rescued shortly after.
No other pope before Francis has visited Lampedusa. The Holy Father has chosen it for being “the frontier of the desperate”.
Angela Maraventano, a senator of the Italian party Lega Nord (Northern League) not re-elected in the last February election, commented:
Of course, we are proud to receive the Pope but I hope that his words are not an additional encouragement for crossings of the Strait of Sicily [separating Sicily from Tunisia]. Africa’s problems must be solved in Africa and those who think otherwise objectively become accomplices of the owners of the boats, the killers who pocket cash without risking anything. I’m saying this with a clear conscience, I will be judged by God, not men.
The “killers” reference is to the fact that people may die during these crossings.
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After two years of this experience — rather exceptional even by dhimmi Eurabian standards — there are two interesting aspects of the Lampedusa situation for Europe generally.
The first is that the island’s small population, which renders it easily overwhelmed by groups of immigrants, and its proximity to North Africa make it a good test (in which Lampedusans are the unfortunate guinea pigs) of things to come.
Lampedusa represents a miniature image of what can happen to the rest of Western Europe if both current Muslim immigration and European demographic trends continue, when the proportion of natives and migrants will be the same in Europe as it has recently been in Lampedusa.
The second aspect showing what may lie ahead for the rest of Europe is the reaction of the inhabitants.
Their predicament was illustrated by one of them in this video showing the fire that destroyed the reception centre: “We are really worried about our safety. Even our children used to walk freely in the streets, and now at 7pm all of us are barricaded in our homes with the doors locked lest something happen to us, because we are seriously afraid.”
In a post entitled “Defecating on Walls in the Name of Freedom”, the Italian political blog Digicontact wrote: “After this first wave of new barbarians the island of Lampedusa counts its damages. Over 60 houses devastated by ‘refugees’. They have just arrived and already behave like criminals. What should be the attitude of us Italians facing such behaviour? We got a bit tired of being non-racist at all costs. Faced with such behaviour everybody should be able to understand that this is just the beginning of an invasion and not a simple immigration wave, least of all of refugees, because in Tunisia there is no war… Put yourselves in the shoes of those who find their house in Lampedusa destroyed by a group of poor immigrants who escape from hunger by defecating on floors and walls and destroying furniture and whatever they can find.”
Confronted with an unprecedented crisis and left to their own devices to deal with it, the people of Lampedusa have used “direct action” methods.
They stopped and delayed by a few hours the Italian Coast Guard patrol boat, loaded with still more “rescued” North Africans, docking at the harbour. Enraged, women later occupied the harbour and docks for several hours and chained themselves, overturning wheelie bins and blocking the road. They then incited fishermen, who with ropes pulled twelve of the many boats on which the migrants had travelled, moored at the docks and obstructing fishing boats (another of the many unresolved problems), to the entrance to the harbour. “Nobody enters here any more”, the women shouted from the quay where the flags of Trinacria (ancient name of Sicily) and of the Pelagie Archipelago were flying. To chants of “freedom!” they raised a banner: “We are full”.
The island descended into chaos. Urban guerrilla warfare, something described by Lampedusa’s mayor Dino De Rubeis with the words “We are at war, people have now decided to get justice with their own hands”, occurred with violent clashes when hundreds of Tunisians demonstrated in the streets, the police charged them and some of the island’s inhabitants protested against the migrants. Dozens of both police and migrants were injured. Three Lampedusans tried to assault the mayor, who was then escorted by the police and barricaded in his office while outside dozens were protesting against him and the Tunisians who wandered around the streets after having burnt down the reception centre where they were staying. In a drawer he kept a baseball bat for self-defence.
The locals vented their fury against journalists and TV crews, attacking them verbally and sometimes physically.
Dozens of Tunisians and Lampedusans threw rocks at each other at a petrol pump, after a group of illegals threatened to explode gas cylinders near the petrol pump in the old harbour, provoking the islanders’ reaction.
“Lampedusa Guerilla. Refugees? No, Criminals” is the title of an article that announces: “Italy, invaded, rebels. It is time to say it’s enough, everybody go home, whoever comes back must be jailed until he is shipped back. Or else the social revolt about which Antonio Di Pietro talks unthinkingly will be rightfully staged by the inhabitants of Lampedusa and of the other areas of Italy tormented and persecuted by reception centres which are in fact criminal dens.”
Enza Ferreri is an Italian-born Philosophy graduate and writer living in London. She blogs at www.enzaferreri.blogspot.co.uk.
For her previous articles and translations, see the Enza Ferreri Archives.