Immigration to Lampedusa

The small island of Lampedusa is more than just a home to 5,000 people or a quiet getaway destination. Since the 1980’s, migrants from Africa and the Middle East have used the island as an entry point to Europe. The number of migrants have increased over the last decades. Maaza Mengiste, who was a recent guest speaker, discussed her experience when she arrived at Lampedusa. She visited the island to learn more about its history with migration and to observe the ceremony held for migrants who have drowned trying to reach safety. She was also able to witness a ship arriving from Libya that was full of women, men and children. Mengiste observed that the Italians who live on Lampedusa stared at the migrants with resentment. She was stunned by the type of reaction that she saw from the Italian community. “It was hard for me to watch with the same detachment.” Mengiste said.

Mengiste went on to discuss her friend Dagmawi’s difficult journey to Lampedusa,  full of horror and terror, which included being stopped by police, thrown in jail and held at gun point. Once he arrived in Lampedusa, however, he learned how to speak Italian and began to work in a film collective called ZaLab. He made a documentary titled Come un uomo sulla terra which describes his own journey and that of other migrants. His story about his journey really touched Maaza. Dagmawi will be participating in a dialogue with Italian filmmaker Andrea Segre Filming the Mediterranean Crossing: South and North of Lampedusa on April 8th at 6:00pm in Villa Sassetti.

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