It’s been a while since my last blog post. I’ve been away for a month: in Glasgow for jury service and for some University work.
Then Easter. Then I’ve had the worst temperature since my primary school years, and my health still isn’t quite restored as I'm left with a delightful bronchitis. Spring is struggling to bloom here, and today has been rainy and with an unseasonable nip in the air.
Luckily it wasn’t so cold and wet when the Kurds were dumped onto the island of Capraia. On the 23rd of April in fact, the Tremiti islands hit the main headlines as a group of 17 refugees from Kurdistan were left by a sailing boat on the largest uninhabited island of the archipelago. There were 8 children, of whom one with severe disability, 6 women, and the rest were men.
The Mediterranean, it’s well-known, is the unfortunate witness of countless episodes of migrants fleeing their home country. Some of these episodes have happy endings, and some don’t. I’m proud of how the Tremiti islands responded to the arrival of these people.
The migrants were given immediate medical assistance; the helicopter took those in direst need to the nearest hospital, and the rest were taken onto the island of San Domino where the whole community gathered together to make sure they were well fed, given a suitable place to sleep, warm blankets, and the children were gifted toys to play with and comforted with cartoons.
It cannot be denied that there was a general atmosphere of preoccupation, as the islands are not equipped with infrastructures and services to host refugees for long periods, but I am always left full of admiration for the islanders in circumstances of emergency. They may grumble, they may fret, but they always come up with a solution, together, as a community, at the service of those in need, without expecting a penny or a “thank you” in return. It’s the right thing to do, and you just do it, no question.
I must say there was a part of me who, in all my naiveté, fantasised of a future where these 17 people – who together make up pretty much over 1/10th of the overall winter population on the islands – found their permanent home here. They could work here! counteract the constant exodus from the islands! help us keep shops and bars open! have crops, businesses of their own! with the presence of children, the school could be re-opened, and young families could see life on the islands as a possibility!
I am well aware that these are simplistic thoughts which don’t take into account any of the complexities of the situation. The Kurds were taken to Termoli the next day, and from there to the nearest centre where they could receive assistance and be directed to their final destination.
I have never been in the situation where I felt the only solution was to risk my life crossing a treacherous winter sea, leaving behind everything I have and know and sacrifice it to the altar of an unknown future, but it must be tough and scary. I hope their forced stop-over on Tremiti gave them a taste of what the real essence of Italy is.
Compassion above everything.