Selected Works

Nonfiction
A look at life in little-known mountain towns of the Sicilian hinterlands.
A true account of the last years of an ancient Sicilian giant bluefin tuna trap.






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Out of Palermo

267 rescued migrants arrive Pozzallo, Sicily with ship from Doctors Without Borders

June 25, 2017

Tags: immigrants, drowning, sicily, africa, trouble, border, europe, death, immigration, flow, people, africans, rescue, drowning

From today's Giornale di Sicilia:
267 immigrants arrive Pozzallo today, including three children and 27 women, aboard the Aquarius rescue ship of Doctors without Borders.
Among them 42 youths from Bangladesh and a boy from the Gambia with grave symptoms of malnutrition.
Their arrival follows another arrival Thursday at the port of Augusta, Sicily of 241 migrants rescued in four operations, along with four corpses of those who died on the journey.

Saved at Sea: Destiny from Nigeria

June 21, 2017

Tags: immigrants, drowning, sicily, africa, trouble, border, europe, death, immigration, flow, people, africans, rescue, drowning

From the MOAS Facebook page:

"My name is Destiny. I’m 23 years old and from Nigeria. I’m nearly 7 months pregnant with my third child. My previous two are 4 year old twin girls. They are with my mum back in Nigeria. My family is OK but we just don’t have the money to buy food for everyone. That’s why my husband and I left to find work. We got to Libya first but it’s bad there. Everyday there is killing, it’s dangerous. No one is happy there. We were in Libya for less than a year when we both got put in prison. I got out after two months but he’s still there. He told me go to Italy even without him. That was the last time he told me. I managed to pay a smuggler 1200 dollars to cross and an extra 150 for a lifejacket. I need to find a job to help my family. That's what I'm going to do in Italy. I’m sure God will help me."

220 dead or missing in three shipwrecks in 24 hours

June 20, 2017

Tags: immigrants, drowning, sicily, africa, trouble, border, europe, death, immigration, flow, people, africans, rescue, drowning

From La Repubblica today:

The only four survivors told the tale. They arrived at Palermo on the Italian Coast Guard ship Diciotti. On the worldwide day of the refugee, the UN announced the three incidents with some of the victims' bodies recuperated and some still lost at sea.

The first and biggest of these tragedies involved a rubber raft that left Libya on 15 June with 133 aboard , mostly Sudanese and Nigerians, that started taking on water just a few hours after departure. The rubber raft was abandoned after a few miles out to sea by the traffickers who came back to take the raft's motor, which caused it to go down.
The second incident involved a boat with at least 85 persons aboard which split in two before sinking. The people who watched the shipwreck said that they had left Libya together with two other vessels the evening of 15 June. There were many families with children aboard. Those lost at sea were primarily citizens of Syria and people coming from north Africa.
A third shipwreck caused seven deaths. The survivors disembarked at Messina, Sicily yesterday. They had left Libya on 14 June. A pregnant woman from Cameroon
lost her husband in the shipwreck.

I want to tell my readers that most of the African refugees don't know how to swim, and have never seen the sea before traffickers put them in un-seaworthy vessels and set them adrift with no pilot, no motor, no gas, no food, no water, no compass, no directions, just the clothes on their backs, so they can be packed in more tightly. They might leave land with a motor and a pilot but after a few miles, the traffickers' cohorts arrive in another boat, take aboard the pilot and re-take the migrants' vessel's motor and head back to the Libyan coast, leaving the migrants to their fate at sea.

Thousands of rescued migrants arrive Palermo, Catania.

June 19, 2017

Tags: immigrants, drowning, sicily, africa, trouble, border, europe, death, immigration, flow, people, africans, rescue, drowning

1,092 immigrants arrived Palermo this morning aboard an Italian Coast Guard ship. They were saved from drowning in the Strait of Sicily: 751 men, 160 women,11 of whom were pregnant, and 185 minor children.
But that's not all.

Yesterday 730 migrants were saved from shipwreck in the central Mediterranean in 7 separate operations. The migrants were aboard 3 rubber rafts and 4 wooden units. Rescue ships belonged to the Italian Coast Guard, to the NGO Save the Childen, the NGO Jugend Rettet and a towboat.
But that's not all.

Yesterday 695 rescued migrants disembarked at Catania from aboard the Irish patrol boat P31 Le Eithne.

Photo essay by Cesar Dezfuli

June 16, 2017

Tags: immigrants, drowning, sicily, africa, trouble, border, europe, death, immigration, flow, people, africans, rescue, drowning

From today's The Guardian newspaper:
Photographer Cesar Dezfuli created a beautiful black-and-white essay on life for African migrants waiting for their green cards for years in a northern Italian town not very receptive to migrants. They live in a former hotel while they wait.

rescue efforts cause unexpected problems

June 14, 2017

Tags: immigrants, drowning, sicily, africa, trouble, border, europe, death, immigration, flow, people, africans, rescue, drowning

From the New York Times today:

It is part of a wrenching Catch-22: Any effort to lessen the migrant crisis can backfire as smuggling networks devise even more dangerous strategies in response. Here is how those strategies have pushed desperate migrants into even more desperate situations.
Smugglers Respond to Rescue Efforts

The bodies of 10 migrants were recovered and at least 100 more migrants were missing on Saturday off the coast of Libya. Eight of the bodies were found on an inflatable boat in the Mediterranean Sea, in a treacherous area between Libya and Italy known as the Central Mediterranean route. Each year, aid groups patrol the area and rescue thousands of migrants at risk of drowning. (more…)

Libyan Navy vs NGO rescue ships

June 10, 2017

Tags: immigrants, drowning, sicily, africa, trouble, border, europe, death, immigration, flow, people, africans, rescue, drowning

From La Repubblica Palermo edition:
The Libyan navy has told NGO search and rescue ship to back off from its coastal waters and not to sit around and wait for imbarcations of refugees set out by their traffickers. The Libyan navy, like Frontex, the European border police, say that they hve intercepted phone calls between people aboard the rubber rafts and the NGO rescue ships. 570 migrants were brought back to Libyan shores. Both Frntex and the Libyan Navy say that these NGO rescue ships are vital to the traffickers who know that they will take the migrants to Europe.
"The behavior of these NGOs increases the numbers of boats of illegal migrants and the audacity of the traffickers of human beings," the Libya Navy spokesman said. In emphasizing the case of a migrant killed yesterday by traffickers Gasem, the spokeman, added that the traffickers "know well that the road to Europe is doable thanks to these NGos and their illegitimate ad suspect presence while waiting for these poor human beings."

Four NGO ships were in the area: The Prudence of Doctors Without Borders,and the ships belonging to OpenArms, Jugendrettet and Seawatch which, however rescued four boats and a rubber raft, saving 716 people and taking aboard a cadaver.


Taormina G-7 a bust for refugee crisis thanks to Trump

June 7, 2017

Tags: immigrants, drowning, sicily, africa, trouble, border, europe, death, immigration, flow, people, africans, rescue, drowning, trump, taormina, G7

From The Guardian:
The Taormina summit did not prove to be the diplomatic turning point in the debate on migration that the Italian government had once hoped. The Trump administration squashed an ambitious plan for a positive statement defending the rights of refugees. Possibly the only practical outcome of the summit was that all refugee boats were banned from landing in Sicily for seven days. Taormina residents sent a discreet letter to the local prefecture after the world leaders had left saying they wanted no migrants housed in the town as it might put off the tourists.

Can you believe this?

June 5, 2017

Tags: immigrants, drowning, sicily, africa, trouble, border, europe, death, immigration, flow, people, africans, rescue, drowning

From the June 3 The Guardian:
Far-right activists are planning a sea campaign this summer to disrupt vessels saving refugees in the Mediterranean, after successfully intercepting a rescue mission last month.

Members of the anti-Islam and anti-immigrant “Identitarian” movement – largely twentysomethings often described as Europe’s answer to the American alt-right – have raised £56,489 in less than three weeks to enable them to target boats run by aid charities helping to rescue refugees.

The money was raised through an anonymous crowdfunding campaign with an initial goal of €50,000 (about £44,000) to pay for ships, travel costs and film equipment. On Saturday the group confirmed they had reached their target but were still accepting donations. A French far-right group hired a boat for a trial run last month, disrupting a search-and-rescue vessel as it left the Sicilian port of Catania. They claimed they had slowed the NGO ship until the Italian coastguard intervened.

Women and children dead and alive on raft

June 5, 2017

Tags: immigrants, drowning, sicily, africa, trouble, border, europe, death, immigration, flow, people, africans, rescue, drowning

From La Repubblica today:
The mother died but her 15-month-old baby girl was saved and taken up by other women on the raft they voyaged on. The littlest migrant will arrive tomorrow morning at Trapani, Sicily aboard the ship Vos Hestia of Save the Children which rescued 125 migrants, 84 men and 41 women. On ship are also the corpses of four persons who did not make it, among them the child's mother. Twenty=five children were rescued, 21 of whom were unaccompanied by adults. Almost all were from sub-Saharan Africa: Nigeria, Niger, Ghana, Cameroon, Togo and Gambia.
Also today hundreds of migrants were rescued. Nearly 400 now are aboard the ship "Blue Gulf" of the NGO Open Arms, which is located northeast of Libya and is headed towards Italy.

After G7 port closure the corpses and immigrants arrive Sicily

May 29, 2017

Tags: immigrants, drowning, sicily, africa, trouble, border, europe, death, immigration, flow, people, africans, rescue, drowning

Seven corpses arrived on the towboat Vos Thalassa along with some 1,040 migrants saved at sea yesterday in several operations on the high seas, according to today's La Repubblica online. The dead were five women and two boys. Among those saved, almost all of them from sub-Saharan Africa, were three pregnant women and fifteen children.
Awaiting them at the dock were the police chief of Palermo Antonella De Miro and city Councilman Giusto Catania who supplied seven coffins for the dead. Many volunteers from Caritas, a Roman Catholic charity, distributed food and shoes.
The towboat is the first ship with migrants to arrive after the reopening of ports at the conclusion of the G7 meeting in Taormina. Tomorrow morning at 8 the Coast Guard ship Gregoretti is expected to arrive with 254 more migrant and two cadavers.

Borders did this

May 26, 2017

Tags: immigrants, catastrophe drowning, MOAS, rescue, death, trouble, Africa, sicily, immigration, Phoenix, ship, death, tragedy, loss, borders

33 casualties on board, including 7 children, 14 women and 12 men, as boat carrying approximately 750 people partially capsizes in the Mediterranean.

24th May 2017 saw one of MOAS’ most tragic rescues to date. Overcrowding and sea swell tipped hundreds into the water during a rescue yesterday. 32 bodies were recovered to MOAS vessel Phoenix alongside 604 survivors, one of whom (more…)

Mafioso shot down while riding his bike in Palermo

May 22, 2017

Tags: mafia, palermo, boss, murder, shooting, street, anniversary, judges, Borsellino, death, blood, bike, scooters, guns, lowlife

From The Guardian:

A mafia boss has been gunned down while riding his bicycle in Sicily, in what appeared to have been the sort of mob killing that has become rarer in recent years as dangerous figures have been locked up.

Giuseppe Dainotti, 67, was shot in the head as he cycled along a street in Palermo, almost 25 years to the day since anti-Mafia magistrate Giovanni Falcone was killed in a bomb blast on a motorway on the Italian island.

Photographs of Monday’s crime scene evoked decades of violence in the Sicilian capital, showing Dainotti’s body covered by a sheet, only his shoes on show, and the white bicycle he was riding lying where it fell.

Italian Judge breaks up families to save children from the mafia

February 26, 2016

Tags: Judge, mafia, children, family, break, chain, ndragheta, calabria, generations, jail, death, abuse

And that's not easy because the family as the basic unit of Italian society is built into the Italian constitution. This judge says it is abusive to bring a child to mafia meetings, indoctrinate him for entry into criminal organizations, and reduce his life's horizons. That it is just as much a crime as giving a child a syringe or a kalishnokov rifle. Read the story in English in The Guardian by clicking on the caption.

metal detectors against terrorism in Palermo

November 22, 2015

Tags: terrorism, fright, fear, culture, death, monuments, stadiums, theaters, people, metal dtectors, cost, expensive, bankrupt, culture, dead, fun, all gone

As of this moment in Palermo you cannot go to the theater, a concert, visit a monument or cathedral or soccer stadium without first being checked by a policeman with a metal detector who asks you to open your purse or bag besides. An expensive endeavor! Who should pay for the added security? Palermo (more…)

Dead man walking

November 12, 2015

Tags: pentito, mafia, provenzano, chauffeur, state's evidence, witness, testimony, witness protection program, Ficarizzi, clan, mob, family, danger, death, murder, threat, what a life

Stefano LoVerso,, for years the chauffeur of Mafia kingpin Bernardo Provenzano, turned state's evidence and was put into the government's witness protection program in a city in northern Italy. LoVerso had to leave his family behind in Ficarizzi. He said in this exclusive interview with a La Repubblica reporter that if the Mafia can't get you, they will get at the family you left behind. He has a wife and children and he decided to come back to Sicily to live with and protect them until he meets his own death, which he fully expects. The protection program cannot protect you if you come back to Sicily. LoVerso says it is the bosses who should be exiled. He knows they will get him, he just doesn't know when. "The mafia doesn't forgive," he says. Imagine the stress and ulcers of living like that! Interview in Italian.


[Sigh. Working on getting the embed code to work. Meantime, here's the link to copy and paste:]
http://video.repubblica.it/edizione/palermo/il-pentito-in-bicicletta-che-sfida-la-mafia--non-lascio-la-sicilia-se-ne-vadano-i-boss/217730/216926

683 immigrants reach Messina; 2 dead. No more room to bury them

August 29, 2015

Tags: immigration, somali, sicily, dead, death, crossing, laws, deadly, heart failure, torture, work, minor, immigrant, boy, 15 years old, objects, photo montage

Plus, Italian authorities collected 200 bodies of immigrants = 40 dead of breathing diesel fumes while locked in the hold, 160 found drowned and floating a half mile from the Libyan coast after a shipwreck.

Objects of immigrants: photos of the things they brought with them

August 28, 2015

Tags: immigration, somali, sicily, dead, death, crossing, laws, deadly, heart failure, torture, work, minor, immigrant, boy, 15 years old, objects, photo montage

Shoes, kitchen utensils, coins, a compass, a package of couscous, a life jacket, a Bible and a Koran. These are some of the objects immigrants brought to confront their voyage in the Mediterranean and left on the vessels that brought them, in years past, to the coast of Lampedusa. Memories and symbols of today's (more…)

15-year-old Somali dies after rescue at sea

August 25, 2015

Tags: immigration, somali, sicily, dead, death, crossing, laws, deadly, heart failure, torture, work, minor, immigrant, boy, 15 years old

The medical examiner has yet to make his report on the cadaver that arrived with 303 rescued immigrants. None of the other 302 immigrants can leave the boat to set foot in Sicily until the doctor has reached a determination of how the boy died aboard the Doctors Without Borders rescue ship Dignity I in (more…)

Palermo commemorates anniversary of murder of anti-Mafia Judge Paolo Borsellino

July 19, 2015

Tags: death, murder by state, mafia, multiple homicide, via D'Amelio, palermo, commemoration

It's Sunday, as it was on this date 23 years ago in Via D'Amelio, Palermo. But this time the street is not deserted and isolated like the one that awaited the three autos carrying Paolo Borsellino and his escort. A speaker's stand, flags, colors and many people await the minute, 4:58 p.m., in which a (more…)

Latest wave of refugees saved

June 8, 2015

Tags: violence, migrants, immigrants, refugess, italy, sicily, africa, human traffickers, trafficking, death, murder, awful

860 refugees reached land at Palermo, another 548 at Trapani. Many are already looking for a ticket to nortern Europe. Over the weekend 5,851 people were saved from the Mediterraneaean Sea. According to souces in Rome the number of immigrants landing since the beginning of the year are ten percent more than in the same time period (more…)

CBS News wakes up from stupor

April 26, 2015

Tags: it's about time, imigration, death, africa, sicily, mass migration

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/migrant-death-in-the-mediterranean/

"Inhuman violence"; traffickers clubbed migrants to death

April 23, 2015

Tags: violence, migrants, immigrants, refugess, italy, sicily, africa, human traffickers, trafficking, death, murder, awful

Some of the survivors of the raft that sank 80 miles off the coast of Libya, killing 400 by drowning, said that their traffickers had beaten several of their fellow travelers to death with clubs because they did not obey. One man was beaten to death at the farm where the refugees are stockpiled until setting (more…)

3000 immigrants today

April 13, 2015

Tags: sicily, palermo, immigrants, death, mediterranean, graveyard, Frontex

1,169 immigrants expected in Palermo alone by tomorrow morning. After the winter hiatus, immigrants are making the dangerous trip in unseaworthy boats and rafts again. More than ten rescue operations in the Canale di Sicilia today alone.

Ten more victims: immigrants drown at sea. 1,000 survivors expected to arrive tonight

March 4, 2015

Tags: immigration, Mediterranean, graveyard, gommone, rubber raft, drown, victims, arrivals, ships, rescue, death, migration

At least ten people drown when the rubber raft they were in bounced and flipped. They were escaping Africa. They are not allowed in Europe, and so they travel clandestinely, as best they can, because ironically they must set foot in Europe in order to claim asylum. They cannot ask for help from the shores of Tripoli. (more…)

"It is a delirium," says mayor of Lampedusa

February 17, 2015

Tags: refugees, immigrants, boats, mediterranean, graveyard, emergency, influx, people, shipwreck, rescue, death, drowning, rubber boats, Lampedusa, Agrigentino

Two hundred arrivals at Pozzallo yesterday. Another 642 expected to land at Porto Empedocle today. The immigration center at the island of Lampedusa, which had been closed down because of the worst conditions, de-staffed and opened only for emergencies is now back in use, run by a non-profit. They have 250 beds but 1,215 people to house (more…)

The Immigrants who Risk Their Lives to Get to Sicily

February 16, 2015

Tags: refugees, immigrants, boats, mediterranean, graveyard, emergency, influx, people, shipwreck, rescue, death, drowning, rubber boats

They risk everything to arrive with nothing as clandestine refugees who cross the Mediterranean, now become a graveyard for thousands like them.

Eternal Embrace

May 16, 2014

Tags: naufragio, refugees, dead, drown, shipwreck, heart, embrace, undersea, Sicily, Mediterranean, racist, grave, cemetery, marine, coast guard, documentary, film, video, European Union, laws, care, love, death

Watery grave, heart's embrace

This is a freeze frame from a video taken by Italian Coast Guard rescue and recovery divers of two refugees who died embraced on the floor of the Mediterranean Sea just off the Sicilian island of Lampedusa on Oct. 3, 2013, after the worst tragedy in those seas since 2000. Three hundred sixty-six people drowned together that day.
In this picture, two of them face each in what was left of their embrace. The empty space between them forms a heart. They died (more…)

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