Lampedusa. Mediterranean Hope at the start of the Perugia-Assisi march


(NEV) This year the classic march began in Lampedusa, at the Gateway of Europe. Participants expressed their solidarity with Mimmo Lucano, with those who provide migrant reception services  and defend the rights of migrants, and with the NGOs that carry out rescues at sea.

The 2018 edition of the classic non-violent “Perugia to Assisi” Peach March departed from the Gateway of Europe in Lampedusa. A large delegation of evangelists was also at the departure point. They wanted to express their solidarity with those who are actively providing reception services to migrants and defending the rights of migrants and asylum seekers. The staff of Mediterranean Hope (MH) – the refugee and migrant programme of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI) – helped to organise the event which was streamed live via skype to thousands of students already present in Perugia in view of the start of the march, which will take place tomorrow.

“Just like a small hummingbird that carries a drop of water in its beak to put out a forest fire, we must all carry a drop of water to put out the fire of rearmament, violence and intolerance towards migrants and asylum seekers.” This is what a student from Lampedusa said in a public speech at the start of the march near the Gateway of Europe.

“This is not only the Gateway of Europe,” said the mayor of Lampedusa, Salvatore Martello, “but it is also a window to Africa, an Africa exceptionally close to us and to which we must show our respect and solidarity.”

There were many banners present at the start of the march, including one expressing solidarity with Mimmo Lucano, the mayor of Riace currently under house arrest.

“We are very worried about what is happening to those who carry out the work of reception and integration of immigrants, such as the NGOs involved in the search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean, and courageous mayors like Mimmo Lucano who have invented a real migrant integration model that has brought back to life a small Italian community with a declining population. Of course, the courts will do their job, but the climate of intimidation towards those who work for and with migrants is becoming increasingly worrying,” said Paolo Naso, coordinator of MH.

The students were joined by representatives of the Forum Lampedusa Solidale and by MH at the departure from Lampedusa. Paola La Rosa read the appeal of the Forum: “In an ideal way this Peace March starts from this rock in the middle of the Mediterranean, a rock that nature wanted to be a place of salvation and that the laws of men today want to transform into a wall.” And she went on to remember those who by necessity or by choice, left their country and marched towards Europe. “Today, we take the baton from them and set out on this march. Before them and before all of you, we commit ourselves to continue marching by putting our bodies, our minds, our hearts at the service of peace, justice, freedom and truth.”

In the meantime, small boats continue to land on the island, carrying Tunisians who on arriving autonomously on the island are intercepted and taken to the hotspot. It is difficult to know exactly what their fate is since the Tunisian authorities have recently expressed a clear desire to limit the number of forced returns from Italy.