On Lampedusa, Italy’s Destination For Immigrants, New Arrivals From Syria

Sept. 28, 2013 – LA STAMPA Editorial via Worldcrunch: On Lampedusa, Italy’s Infamous Destination For Immigrants, New Arrivals From Syria – Over the past decade, the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa has become one of the main points of European entry for illegal immigrants. Even though the 90-mile open sea journey from Tunisia has already killed thousands, a new wave of refugees from Syria are following the same route. LAMPEDUSA – Two Syrian mothers with young sleeping children lie in the corridor outside the United Nations Refugee Agency and Save The Children offices. Other families are camped outside. There are improvised tents and queues to phone home for just one minute, not to mention collective prayers for closed gates to open. Since the beginning of the year, 6,000 Syrians have arrived on Italy’s Sicilian coast. Five hundred arrived last Friday afternoon in the town of Syracuse. One woman died during the voyage. Unlike many of the sub-Saharan Africans who come here, the Syrians have no qualms about offering their fingerprints. The Africans see Italy as just a stop on their journey and have no intentions of settling here. The Syrians don’t know about the process and don’t have relatives who have done it before. They’re hoping for refugee status here. The Syrians occupy the last wing of this refugee center, farthest away from the entrance. In the small prefab rooms there are transparent nylon sheets, flagstone floors full of empty water bottles. All those here receive a bar of soap and a toothbrush. In the middle of it all, while pasta and fish fingers are being dished out, Salim is telling his story via his mobile phone. The social workers look on at the images of dead bodies and ruins pop on the screen. »I ran away when a sniper shot my girlfriend,» he says. »We were walking in the center of Damascus when she collapsed beside me, without saying anything. They shot her from a roof. It was then when I decided I had nothing to stay for.» Special processing fo

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