The tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, located almost exactly between Tunisia and Sicily, has long been the land destination for refugees leaving northern Africa by sea.
Last week the calmer summer seas finally set in, allowing several ships packed with over 900 immigrants to make the otherwise treacherous pass from Tunisia to the Italian island’s shores. An emergency situation was immediately called as the holding centre’s population swelled to over 1,100 in number. The official capacity of the structure allows it to host only 190 persons.
Debates have been fierce over the continuously growing number of clandestine immigrants arriving in Italy. The Berlusconi-led government has been leading a strong campaign to deter Italy from accepting those requesting political asylum. However, in accord with larger human rights principles set by the European Union, UE Courts recently suspended the ordered expulsion of 11 immigrants to Libya who arrived in Lampedusa last March. The Court is currently investigating whether Libya truly protects the human rights of those who are expelled to their country. It has recently come to the world’s attention that often, refugees who are expelled from Italy and other European countries are not returned to their countries of origin, but instead are abandoned, left to their own devices, in harsh climates, such as the deserts of Libya and Egypt.