Residents of Lampedusa and “brothers who came from afar.” Lesson for Italy

Grandma Teresa, 84, went to the stove to cook pasta while the rest of the family set the table. Because the old lady and her son Antonello Di Malta, a firefighter, did not want to leave behind the door a dozen teenagers from Burkina Faso who had been asking for food the night before.

Migrants are starving. And they are exhausted. “One of them got down on his knees to beg us,” the firefighter says, “and then I decided not to go out to dinner with my friends anymore and invite them to our house.”

Thus, the Di Malta family’s veranda turned into a kind of public dining room for two days. For a week, divided into groups, the youngest of those who landed on the island walked the streets in shabby clothes, many without even shoes. And in his eyes the horror of the nightmare journey is still there.

Dozens and dozens of unaccompanied minors still roam the city’s bars and clubs to buy food and bottles of water with what little change they find in their pockets, or to beg. In fact, it’s not always easy to get the packages handed out three times a day by Red Cross volunteers in the hotspot area of ​​Imbriacola, where you have to wait in the sun for hours and many climb over a fence to try to get food elsewhere. There are those who arrived recently and have not eaten for several days.

They are waiting to be transferred to other temporary destinations, but the time is taking too long. Many people ask residents to know how to wash themselves. “How much does a slice of pizza cost?” a North African asked the clerk at a take-out restaurant the other day. Behind him, a couple of Milanese tourists, hearing a request made in broken Italian, offered to pay him. “Take it,” they told him, explaining themselves with gestures.

Marianna Esposito, at her fried food shop, serves fish arancini to migrants who, outside the restaurant, rummage through the leftover food left on the tables by customers. “We tried to help some of them, they were hungry and needed a toilet,” says Giuseppe Brancaleone, owner of the Sicilian Food restaurant on Corso Vittorio Emanuele II.

A little further on, on Via Roma, the restaurant Il Gallo d’Oro lowered its shutters and waiters began serving pasta and bruschetta to passers-by on the street.

But in the San Gerlando church square, parish volunteers are serving lunch to hundreds of other desperate people who couldn’t find a place at the reception center. The small group gathered in front of the finance barracks and the soldiers took steps to freshen them up and then escorted them on foot to the pier where they waited for the ferry to Porto Empedocle.

On Thursday evening, the Madonna of Porto Salvo, the island’s patroness, was honored and several African boys joined residents and tourists in dancing to the music of Bob Marley and Shakira. A little carefree after so much suffering.

The islanders’ act is a lesson in humanity that renews Avvenir’s proposal to award Lampedusa the Nobel Peace Prize. The boundless generosity and big heart of the Lampedusans cannot remain limited to this strip of land: the closeness “to a brother who came from afar,” without unnecessary questions and without easy recriminations, is a testimony, humble and strong, speaking for the whole country and therefore the world. Because Italy is like that too.

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