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First National Memorial Day of the Victims of Immigration

3 ottobre

Giornata nazionale in memoria delle vittime dell’immigrazione

The morning of 3rd October 2013, a boat with some 500 people aboard approached the Isola dei Conigli close to Lampedusa, the southernmost Italian coast in the Mediterranean. They had travelled for two days as so many others had done before and would do afterword: with nothing but themselves.
Seeing the coast coming closer, they decided to light a fire so that people would see them from the shore. But the floor of the boat was cover with petrol and in a few minutes the boat was on fire. Men, women and children jumped in the sea trying to save themselves, whether they could swim or not. When the coast guard, the carabinieri and even private fishing boats arrived, they managed to save 155 people. In the hours that followed, 368 corpses (men, women and children) were taken from the sea.

In the third anniversary of that day, here in Italy we celebrate the first National Memorial Day of the Victims of Immigration, which was created by the President of the Italian Republic on 21 March 2016. It’s a way to remember who’s not here anymore, and to teach to who’s still here how to welcome and have no fear.

It’s a day of remembrance: “So to keep and revive memory of those who lost their lives in the attempt to immigrate to our Country while fleeing war, persecution and poverty”

It’s a day about truth: “So to make the public opinion sensible to civil solidarity toward all immigrants, to respect for the life and dignity of all individuals, to integration and welcome giving”

It’s a day about education: “So to educate young people to not be afraid and welcome people from abroad”

I remember those days. Seeing those corpses wrapped in black sheets on the shore of Lampedusa and then the hundreds of caskets lined up was horrible even from here. I cannot imagine what it meant for people there.

What I remember the most is the dignity of Lampedusa mayor, Giusi Nicolini, a woman who then has always worked for everyone’s right to be safe and have a future. That was the first time I heard about her. Her text to the Minister of the Interior was repeated on every media

Vieni con me a contare i morti

(Come with me and count the dead)


  • Anabel
    Posted October 3, 2016 at 22:49

    I remember, too awful.

    • Post Author
      Posted October 7, 2016 at 09:35

      It was indeed awful. But something good is coming from it, I think. Seeing the celebrations on tv, especially in Lampedusa, with the migrants coming back from where they live now to commemorate with people still there, warmed my heart.

  • Carrie-Anne
    Posted October 4, 2016 at 23:36

    That’s an absolutely horrific tragedy! I’m glad it’s being commemorated. I wish the U.S. would do something like that for the victims aboard the MS St. Louis, who were forbidden to enter the U.S. The ones who were taken in by England during the forced return voyage were safe, but many of the people who got off in Belgium, France, and The Netherlands were killed because they couldn’t get asylum.

    • Post Author
      Posted October 7, 2016 at 09:37

      Commemorating is a little thing, but I think it can make a lot of good. We only commemorate what we think it’s worth remembering and this can shad a completely new light on so many things. I truly think it may chance our minds.

  • Arlee Bird
    Posted October 5, 2016 at 18:42

    I’m not sure that “immigration” is the correct term for what has been going on in recent years. There is a tragedy involved here, but we also need to take a closer realistic look at what is going on, the roots from which it all stems, and alternate solutions that will address the issues in the best way possible.

    Arlee Bird

    • Post Author
      Posted October 7, 2016 at 09:40

      I agree. Here in Italy, sometimes it is called an ‘epocal migration’, and I think that’s what it actually is. It’s determind by history and there is nothing anyone can do to stop it, the earlier we cope with this fact, the better we’ll be able to handle it.
      Unfortunally, a lot of people is scared and don’t care about understanding.

  • Ali Isaac
    Posted October 9, 2016 at 08:50

    Those poor people. Beautifully written post, Sarah. RIP. I can’t imagine how awful life must be for sane rational people to take such chances to escape. We don’t realise how truly fortunate we are.

    • Post Author
      Posted October 9, 2016 at 21:29

      I totally agree, Ali. We don’t know how fortunate we are, because we take what we have for granted.

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