“Words, words,” Pino Deti sings in front of a restaurant in Lampedusa. Many residents of the small Italian island no longer believe the promises of politicians and feel that the state has “abandoned” them, while boats full of immigrants continue to arrive.
“It’s just words!” Says this construction worker, aged 78, their famous delusion Song The Italian 1970s that walked around the world.
Located in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea between Sicily and Tunisia, Lampedusa covers an area of 20 square kilometers and attracts thousands of tourists annually thanks to its turquoise waters and beautiful sandy beaches.
But in this August month, marked by a campaign trail ahead of the September 25 legislative elections, politics suddenly re-emerged and it didn’t take long for far-right leader Matteo Salvini, who opposes immigration.
“The politics here has gotten a lot worse,” says Salvatore Maggiore, a 47-year-old florist, arranging the plants on the shelves of his shop.
“Promises were never kept,” he adds. “Nothing has changed, always the same music,” he laments bitterly. “A little bit of everything is missing here,” he says.
While tourism continues to be the island’s economic support, its 6,000 residents complain of a lack of public services and double taxes, in Italy which is experiencing rampant inflation, accelerated by the war in Ukraine.
“We pay a heavy price for petrol, the sewage treatment plant hasn’t worked for a long time and we don’t have a hospital,” says Pino Deti, in a white beard and radiant orange overalls.
“When the tourists leave, we eat filth,” he protests.
On the streets of downtown, where souvenir shops line the sidewalks, health remains the top priority. “There are only specialists, the rest have to go to the mainland,” explains Maria Garretto, a 58-year-old housewife.
The lack of a hospital forces many residents to undergo treatment in Sicily, especially pregnant women and seriously ill patients.
“Unfortunately, there are people who give up treatment due to a lack of resources, because going to Palermo every 15 days is expensive,” Palermo Mayor Filippo Manino told AFP. “The municipality’s resources are limited, and it is up to the state to address this problem,” he explains.
As in 2018, Lampedusa and the phenomenon of immigration, with the arrival of thousands of immigrants, have again become the main topic of the election campaign of the far right.
In recent days, more than 1,500 undocumented immigrants have arrived on the island. They were taken by ferry to other cities in Sicily. Anyway, the arrivals are not stopping.
Ibrahim Mbaye from Senegal, who arrived three years ago, has become a fisherman. He says that for migrants rescued at sea who spend a lot of time behind the doors of the reception center, it is “very difficult” to live like this.
“We thought that Italy would provide us with the future, but when we arrived we were disappointed. We realized that it is not easy to make money”, explain the Senegalese, who estimate that racism is still present “in 50%” of the population.
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