The Mediterranean solution

10 Feb 2009

LAMPEDUSA is the rocky, arid home to some 6000 permanent residents. Although it belongs to Italy, it has more in common with Tunisian beach resorts than with, say, Elba or Capri - not surprisingly, for it is 113 kilometres from the African coast but 205 kilometres from Sicily. The Lampedusani, as the islanders call themselves, are dependent on tourism and fishing. Because it is impossible to cultivate the bone-dry soil, most food has to be imported. During the thirsty summer months, when thousands of predominantly Italian tourists spend their holidays there, the Italian military is often forced to airfreight water to the island. The crystal clear sea, spectacular marine life and small restaurants serving a mixture of Italian and Tunisian cuisine conjure idyllic pictures of dolce far niente. But the other face of Lampedusa is the very antithesis of these images. Lining the harbour are shipwrecks and small, barely seaworthy boats waiting to be removed and destroyed by the Coast Guard. Numerous graves at the local cemetery are marked only with a single letter or number, hinting at untold stories about years spent on the move, dangerous passages in small, overloaded boats and the manifold reasons individuals have for leaving everything behind .. 

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