On the night of the 15th of July 2018, after three days of navigation, 128 unaccompanied minors, 44 women and 272 men reached the migrant hotspot* of Pozzallo, Sicily. Most of them had come from Eritrea (291) and Somalia (92), the others from Nigeria, Bangladesh, Algeria, Libya, Syria and Egypt.
The migrants had been rescued from a wooden boat in the Mediterranean Sea by two vessels from the Frontex** mission. Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini immediately declared that the boats should “head south, back to Libya or Malta”, and refused them the permission to disembark until the EU agreed to distribute the migrants among other countries. When we visited the hotspot at the end of September 2018, about 90 refugees were still waiting to be sent to Germany, Portugal and Spain. As of the end of November, the batch bound for Germany is still waiting to leave Italy.
*Hotspots are facilities set up at the EU’s external border in Greece and Italy for the initial reception, identification and registration of asylum seekers and other migrants coming to the EU by sea.
**European border and coast guard agency.
Mikael, 24 years old - Eritrea
“My name is Mikael, like the archangel”. He wears slippers way too big for his feet and a wooden cross around his neck. His eyes are pitch black, but shiny as a full moonlit night. “I left Eritrea in 2015. It took me three years to get to Europe”…
Teklemichael & Michael, 20 and 21 years old - Eritrea
They aren’t real brothers, even though they say it feels like they are. They come from the same village and they left it together in 2016, sharing the same desire of being reunited with their respective blood brothers living in Germany. Like their brothers before them, they set off on the road to Europe...
Gherrye, 41 years old - Eritrea
His story starts long back, after 12 years spent in the National Army as an assistant nurse. He remembers all the dates, all the details. “I come from a small village close to Senafe, in the south of Eritrea. I crossed the Ethiopian border by foot on the 24th of February 2012”…