Condemning the migrants is just as bad as the ISIS
- The mayor of the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa told us, why the people of the island are tolerant towards migration.
- Giusi Nicolini has heard of the boarder fence of Hungary, and knew why such a fence can't stop migration.
At eight o'clock in the evening Lampedusa was still sparkling in the sunshine; it was visible even from the mayor's office how, in a quiet rhythm, the main street of the settlement on the southern Italian island was teeming with people.
Meanwhile, the office looked as if it was located in a different world, most like somewhere east of the Ukraine. A rancid smoke of cigarettes of several years lingered in the semi-darkness, and the mayor stormed into the room as one coming through a stargate from some busy office beyond the island. Giusi Nicolini's face was pale and tired, she briefly apologised for that the civil forum had dragged on, then asked if I also wanted to have coffee. I had not had weak vending-machine coffee from a plastic cup ever before in Italy.
Is your day so busy because of the migrant situation?
I inquired, not without reason. Instead of being famous for the Turtle Beach, the place voted one of the nicest beaches of the world, Lampedusa has recently got widely known for the surge of thousands of migrants arriving in the island on boats. Nicolini exhaled the smoke and leaned back.
Not at all. We are struggling with the ferry traffic. The only ferry linking the island with Sicily has broken down, and we haven't been able to get out of Lampedusa for almost a week now. The decline in tourism also worries many people. Those are the issues that trouble us, not the migrants.
Yet, it is the migrants the world knows Lampedusa for.
Yes, even though the arrival of the migrants exert no direct influence on the island. Earlier, of course, the situation was different, until 2013, the migrant situation was Lampedusa's problem only; the EU wasn't here, Italy wasn't here, as if it was only our business. But our acts often convinced even the Italian government. Still, we also had plenty of other things to deal with; after all, this is only a little island with a lot of problems. But we've never stopped the rescue.
Of course, in some instances our reactions were wrong, but you have to see that it was the Italian government's fault, those acts resulted from their decisions overruling human rights. Between 2009 and 2011, owing to the ideas of Maroni, Minister of the Interior, Lampedusa turned into a prison island. But the inhabitants of the island resisted because they didn't want to live in a prison. (About how the Italian government made Lampedusa a crisis zone in oder to gain political profit, you can read here.)
Do you still feel that the EU is abandoning the island?
Luckily, by now the attitude of the EU has changed. Italian and EU ships are already rescuing migrants from the sea, it isn't us who have to cope with their arrival any longer.
Europe has great responsibility, in history as well as at present, for the fact that such a situation could occur in the world. We can't shut ourselves off either, we are obliged to admit those who flee to us.
Read our other story on the migration crisis
The dream island, Lampedusa where people could hate immigrants. But why don't they?
The world of Mad Max does exist: slavery, desert, and war on the route from Africa to Italy
This happened later, when hundreds of migrants appeared on the main Hungarian railway station. They couldn't travel further, so they camp in the middle of the city for weeks.
But, as regards the migrant situation, Europe still maintains its double face. We regard those people who contradict the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria or Iraq. But if, for their political views, the same people escape to us, because at home they would get killed, suddenly we don't want to protect them. We call them immigrants.
Those who condemn the migrants are just as bad as the ISIS: it is the foes of terrorism that they stigmatise.
At present, Hungary is in a very similar situation as Italy. According to certain data, more migrants have come to us lately than to you. Have you heard that the Hungarian government wants to build an iron curtain on the border in order to keep away the migrants?
Of course, I have. But Hungarians have to see that this won't solve the problem. They only waste a lot of money by building the fence, but nothing will stop the migration to the EU. We see it very clearly here, on the marine route. The migrants will climb every fence, they will cross every border, because they have no other chance to survive.
Human trafficking cannot be stopped with these methods either. The only effect the fence will make is that more will die on the way. Keeping the migrants off will not enrich your country, the attempt will only bring about a series of new tragedies.
The solution can rather be expected from the change of international legislation. Humanitarian passages should be created, which would authorise the migrants to get to Europe legally from the toughest places.
Sinking ships and drowned people have not stopped the migrants from arriving either. If the EU thinks differently, Europe has no future.
Statistics also show that xenophobia has recently increased in Hungary. It is true, however, that it is more likely the xenophobic government propaganda that is behind the situation rather than real problems caused by the migrants. How come that the islanders have not turned against the migrants even after decades? Even though the previous government tried to incite the atmosphere against them here, too?
For an islander it is obvious that those who land here are survivors. We know that Lampedusa means safety for them.
Seeing from this island, the border does not run between Europe and Africa, but between life and death.
Perhaps Hungarians should notice that the people who arrive at them are survivors, and they would like to get a new life from them, from Europe.