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Monday, December 30, 2013


by Gil Fagiani

Around one hundred and seventy migrants who had been kept on the Italian territory of Lampedusa have been evacuated. The island’s centre had been designed to house up to 850 people for around 48 hours. However it has been steadily transformed into a long-term refugee camp, leading to accusations of crowded, unsanitary conditions. Most of the migrants are now being taken to the Italian mainland by air. Giusi Nicolini, the Mayor of Lampedusa says the system needs changing. “I believe nothing can be the same as before. The parliament, all governments and especially the Italian government must realise that we must work seriously to totally reform how we treat asylum seekers in our country,” he said. Last week video footage emerged appearing to show the refugees, some of them naked, in the freezing cold being being sprayed with disinfectant. This led to a storm of criticism. --Euronews, December 25, 2013

At the Lampedusa Welcome Center
workers are ordered to stop the scabies
epidemic among the North African detainees,
survivors of a boat capsizing that drowned
366 people off the coast of Sicily.

Cell phone footage shows workers
using a high-pressure compressor to blast
the migrants with a formula of cold water
and disinfectant. Men, women, children
huddle naked in an open-air courtyard,
rubbing their eyes, mouths gaping.

Lampedusa’s mayor sees the images,
reacts with horror, condemns the treatment
as la practica da lager—something from
a concentration camp. The workers tell
journalists who stalk them, Attenzione!
We’re just the picccoli pesci—the little fish.

Gil Fagiani is a translator, essayist, short story writer and poet. His most recent book of poetry is Serfs of Psychiatry (Finishing Line Press, 2012).  In 2014, his poetry collection Logos, set in a Bronx drug program in the 1970s, is due to be published by Guernica Editions. Gil co-curates the Italian American Writers’ Association’s monthly reading series, and is a founding member of the Vito Marcantonio Forum.