I went to Lampedusa when the “emergency” was on every Italian’s mind. It was the front page of every paper, the opener for every news cycle, the topic during talk shows. The main point I was getting was that the Lampedusans were angry, the island devastated by these people who were essentially squatting everywhere, that the locals had taken to not leaving their homes, their lives destroyed. I went there to look for a story about a young refugee man.
I saw the opposite, the locals taking in these immigrants, feeding them, clothing them, some families hosting 3 or 4 immigrants under their roof, others giving them their boats to sleep in, or their garages .I met two local volunteers—Pippo and Maurizio they introduced me to this local family—the Matinas—who were hosting a lot of immigrants.that’s how I met Ahmed, a 23-year-old Tunisian who was being looked after by the Matinas. A great kid.The family gave him clothes, allowed him to use the bathroom, cooked for him,they said to him “This house is your house now”, .He had been on the island nine days, happy to be there and nervous about having to be possibly re-patriated.
Ahmed told me he earned 60 euros a month as a waiter in Biserta, where he lived, and had to pay bordercrossers 800 euros for a 25 hour boat ride with another two dozen Tunisians. His mother had sold half her belongings in order to help him take the trip.
“I left for my future, for my family,” he told me.The Matinas even wanted him to stay on the island, but Ahmed had to be moved to another CIE (“Center for Identification and Expulsion).He spent 10 days in the CIE of Campobasso, I tried to meet him but i had no permission to get in, he finally obtained a temporary permit for six months, now he has to find a job or he will be re-patriated. Ahmed went to Verona where his sister lives, she works in a bar with her boyfriend.
Unfortunately they have no space in their house and not job opportunities for him, so he decided to return to his “second family” in Lampedusa. It’s been a couple of weeks since his return, Ahmed these days is trying to find a job. In the meantime helps the Matinas in the housework, he has his own room and is more and more part of this family and this island.