3 Oct 2014

Lampedusa remembered one year on – but has anything changed?

Twelve months ago, Italy’s conscience was rocked by the sight of the bodies of hundreds of migrants shipwrecked at Lampedusa – one year later and the mood is very different.

Above: a mural representing immigrants’ faces on a wall is pictured at the Lampedusa port soon after the disaster

Survivors and victims’ relatives gathered in Lampedusa’s port on Friday as they honoured the anniversary of a migrant-boat wreck off the southern Italian island’s coast, which took the lives of 366 African refugees fleeing to Europe on 3 October 2013.

The small island, which lies southwest of Sicily and just 70 miles from the coast of Tunisia, has been a stepping stone for migrants seeking a better life in Europe for two decades.

The deaths set off a fierce political debate in Italy over tough rules intended to combat clandestine immigration which made it an offence to offer help to illegal migrant boats.

Read more: on the shores with the thousands dying to reach Europe

Survivors painted the breakwater blocks of the Lampedusa pier, helped by local high school students in the first of a series of initiatives organized by the 3 October committee. The group was formed to help the survivors and victims’ relatives, to honour not only the first anniversary of the disaster but also all migrants who have lost their lives in desperate journeys across the Mediterranean seeking European shores.

‘Europe’s border control’

According to Italian news agency Ansa, the disasters marked a major shift in public sentiment and political policy toward greater compassion for migrants – however many Italians want the European Union do more when dealing with migrants and reform in its approach to monitoring frontiers.

Speaking from Tunisia, Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano, warned that Italy’s border control must be shut down and be replaced with the European border agency by November.

Lampedusa: redefining Italy's conscience on immigration

Border security is a matter of the individual member states. But when they become overwhelmed and need support, they turn to Frontex, the EU agency which was designed as an instrument for border control, not migration policy.

“(We need to see) European action to show that Europe takes charge of its own borders,” Mr Alfano said. “We will reach the objective of bringing Europe to patrol the Mediterranean border,” he added.

The disaster was also marked on social media where #3ottobre was trending: