In 2016, more than 65 million people were displaced around the world. While a majority of these people were displaced within their own countries, millions still fleed to search for a new home. Many of them tried and successfully reached Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea. In popular media, the island Lampedusa began to appear in tandem with the migrant crisis. This article will answer the questions of what is Lampedusa and how it is involved in the refugee crisis.
What is Lampedusa?
Lampedusa is an eight square mile island located in the Mediterranean Sea. It is located roughly 70 miles from Tunisia, which actually makes it closer to Africa than Europe. It is a part of Italy and is populated by approximately 6,000 people.
In recent years, thousands of migrant arrived in Lampedusa. In 2013, over 13,000 migrants came to this small island by boat. This is a sharp decrease from 60,000 people that passed through the island in 2011. However, this large influx of migrants continues and puts a large pressure on the island. What is Lampedusa doing to house migrants?
Lampedusa, being a tiny island with a very small population, does not have the resources or the housing to hold the sharp influx of migrants. The remnants of an old naval base are used to help house migrants while they wait to get sent to another part of Italy to have their case heard.
However, this base only has a capacity of 800 people. In some cases, it used to house thousands of migrants. Migrants are supposed to stay for only a few days on the island but reports have shown that most of them stay for two to three weeks before leaving. During the day, migrants wander the streets since the shelters are only meant to be used during the night.
Migrant’s Health Problems
Many migrants contract diseases in their journeys to Europe due to the fact that they are in overcrowded boats, vans, buses and rafts for long periods of time. The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health recently released a study examining migrants headed to Italy and Greece and nearly 40 percent of the participants reported that they contracted an illness in their route to Europe.
Migrants also suffer stress and trauma in their journeys since many are mistreated and abused by smugglers. Some also witness deaths of people traveling with them due to dehydration or suffocation in rafts. If migrants are arriving in bad conditions, what is Lampedusa doing to help them?
Although Lampedusa lacks resources, that does not stop locals from providing food, blankets and other forms of hospitality towards the groups of migrants arriving. The people of the island are helping those who arrive in every way possible, directly affecting poverty reduction of migrants. In 2011, 2014, and 2016, the island was nominated for a Noble Peace Prize for the locals’ generosity.
The Order of Malta
From the more administrative side, the Order of Malta helps Lampedusa with the rescuing and health treatment of migrants that arrive by sea. Since the Orders’ involvement with Lampedusa, it has rescued over 55,000 people. The ships also provide medical services to migrants. Between 2008 and 2013, the Order of Malta provided medical services to over 4,000 people.
As the migrant crisis continues the situation in Lampedusa remains critical. While the people of Lampedusa and the Order of Malta continue to help migrants that arrive, they lack adequate resources to meet all of the migrant’s needs.
However, it is important to acknowledge the work that is being done. It shows that even though Lampedusa is overstretched, its people and communities are still willing to help and harbor migrants in their search for a better life in Europe.
– Drew Garbe