Scars on the Sea


Francesco Martelli, volunteer within the Observatory “Mediterranean Hope” in Lampedusa – NEV

Lampedusa, August 10th, 2016 – Every journey is made three times: when we dream on it, when make it and then we think about it. Lampedusa is a place where the dreams of men, women and children land. These dreams full of expectations have pushed those kids and those families to face such traumatic journey. A dream that become a nightmare when crossing the desert on vehicles that seem cattle trucks and when suffering from hunger and thirst or when living the perils of raiders and the Libyan hell with its violence and labour camps. And then, there is the sea. Once landed, the memories. Traumatic wounds that remain open and alive even after reaching Lampedusa.

I have personally participated in the numerous MH’s activities carried out in Lampedusa, including waiting at the pier during the landings to welcome the migrants in a place where governmental and non-governmental institutions do not meet. In Lampedusa, the institutional reception system is lined by a warm and hospitable welcome that is made by a group of people called “Forum Lampedusa Solidale”. What moves the people of “Forum Lampedusa Solidale” is the will to offer a human welcome to overcome the formal distance by spontaneously offering help. As one of the members of the Forum often told me “to welcome is a right of those who welcome”, even before a moral duty; it is an absolutely spontaneous and natural motivation, a necessity of the people who live in Lampedusa. This welcoming activities are spontaneous and become political when they empathise the difference against the reception system that is managed by the Italian and European institutions. Since a decent welcoming that means hot tea, drinks, snacks, warming blankets and a warm “welcome” or “bienvenue”, according to the origin of the guests, it is in itself an alternative witness against a reception system which is conceived only on a security basis.

The signs of violence, stress and hardships, the trauma that often mark the bodies of migrants, also leave an indelible mark on all those who offer support and have chosen to share a part of the journey of these newcomers. In this sharing, people find a familiar space that allows them, even if only momentarily, to soothe that pain, to recover that humanity that have disappeared during such a difficult journey that lasted for months, and for many of them it has not finished yet. What I imagine is that the many activities of the Mediterranean Hope and the Forum – from the first welcome to the daily free internet activities can accompany these people to rework their experience and their memory of the journey. The Internet Point through which migrants can communicate with their relatives for the first time after months represents important meeting moments to discuss. It is in that place that people who have recently landed the Italian soil can measure themselves with a new environment and with operators and volunteers to tell their incredible stories, if they want. It is in that place and thanks to interaction with each other that the memory of the journey gets a meaningful context.

Every so often and always spontaneously we organise an excursion to the beach. With two pots and the carcass of a refrigerator that has also landed the beaches of Lampedusa we can improvise an afternoon of music, dancing and singing that become an unmatched explosion of energy during which the boundaries that have been built between us and them disappear. In raising an exciting and visceral rhythm, the indelible wounds of those guys seem almost cauterised.