Today, I learned about two different kinds of boats found off the coast of Lampedusa – fishing boats and immigrant boats.
I woke up bright and early this morning to walk around Porto Nuovo with Alessandro in search of fishermen to interview for Giulia’s thesis. We dropped off Kaylyn at her SCUBA certification lesson – so jealous! If I weren’t terrified of open water and sharks, I would love to join. I’m going to add it to my bucket list!
On our walk, we talked about the difference between problems caused by palangrese (longline) and straccico (trawler) boats in relation to sea turtle conservation, and why it is difficult to make change.
There are more problems than just teaching fishermen not to kill sea turtles, even by accident. The fish population of the Mediterranean is decreasing rapidly and vastly. This is despite regulations, which some say are sufficient, yet others say they are not. Here comes, then, the question of the illicit fishing industry. This is largely fueled by Tunisian and Algerian boats that have the advantage of having no European GPS tracker. They are unregulated and fish excessively in places that are not allowed. The Coast Guard may confiscate these boats, but it is difficult to find them unles there is constant aerial and nautical monitoring.
In the words of a well-educated tourist, “it’s not that we need harsher regulations; the problem is illegal fishing. No matter what limit we put on things, people will always want to take it a step further. If we stop that, there might be a chance.”
We also saw large wooden Tunisian, Algerian and Moroccan boats beached along the side of Porto Nuovo. These aren’t for fishing – they had no place for lines or net – these are for the immigrants that there are so many news articles about. Here is an interesting, though pretty opinionated, blog about the situation in Sicily, including some Lampedusa specifics.
They come over, hundreds of them crowded on wooden boats, and risk their lives on the voyage from the North of Africa to Europe. This phenomena is very interesting to me, as my mother works with immigrants in the United States. Evidently, context and risk may be different, but the goal and hopes of all of the immigrants is the same. Italy is one of the few EU countries that allows undocumented immigrants and gives them ‘amnesty’ or documentation to continue on their European paths. Although it sounds nice, it is an extremely flawed system and very politically/economically motivated. The EU gives Italy 10 Euros per immigrant per day to give them shelter – only four of which are used for their supposed purpose. The immigrants get daily allowances, also, which create a sense of dependency and false reality of Europe. Once they move from this immigrant station to the mainland, they are completely on their own. Desperation and lack of knowledge of how things work without government assistance leads to what people may call “delinquent” behavior, etcetera. There are also success stories, beautiful good fortune found and sent back to families back home.
This phenomena also relates to the Lampedusa Turtle Rescue Center; about two years ago, there was an overabundance of immigrants found off the coast of Lampedusa during the winter – too many to keep in the center, which has space for about 350 of the near 1000 present at the time. They needed a place to keep them, so without warning, decided to house hundreds within the Center’s humble walls. Almost all of the education materials, and many of the supplies necessary for basic maintenance of sea turtles, were destroyed.
Daniela, being the incredible woman that she is, had nothing to offer but sympathetic words of the people that were situated here without warning. Of course, having no source of income for the center besides donations and her own salary as a teacher, it was hard to replace many things. The van that 8 people slept in and deconstructed has not been salvaged. But she dedicates a whole room of the center, though partially hidden because of political reasons, to understanding the issue of immigration in Lampedusa, and being sensitive to the things that cause it.
The wall of a room at the Rescue Center that Daniela dedicated to the immigration phenomena