Mark has recently joined the team on the MV Aquarius, a search and rescue ship operated jointly by MSF / Doctors without Borders and SOS MEDITERRANEE. Here he blogs about the team's work in the Mediterranean:
It’s crazy to think about all these people floating around out here.
I write on the port-side deck, looking out to sea.
I just heard 800 people were picked up today. That’s between us, the one other NGO ship and the Italian Coast Guard. That’s 800 people, even though it’s winter when everyone thought things would settle down.
The weather has been bad, but today was a good day with a full moon so maybe more boats set off from Libya. So…right, we found 800 people, but how many didn't get picked up and are still out there in this black sea?
Typically someone on the boat will call this MRCC (Maritime Coordination Rescue Center) hotline in Rome on a satellite phone that you never find, thrown overboard. Or a smuggler accompanies them for a while and makes the call and we're sent coordinates.
Sometimes there isn't a call and the little boats, crowded with people, are spotted from our bridge or picked up on radar.
We found 800 people, but how many are still out there in this black sea?
On both rescues since I’ve arrived we've found the boats the day they departed shore; usually we do. We have to, since their chances of making it overnight aren’t good.
This movement of people strikes me here much more heavily than the limited exposure I've had to this migration working with Doctors Without Borders in the north of Ethiopia. There, sure, people are moving with basically nothing, but at least they're on land.
The movement of people in Ethiopia is easier for me to comprehend than the idea of floating around this massive body of water, often without even a life jacket. Nothing in their pockets. One rescuer told me he picked up a man last summer who was naked. Apparently it’s not that uncommon. (more…)
975 people rescued yesterday in seven rescue operations in the Strait of Sicily arrived safely Sunday morning at Palermo's harbor.
One of them was a baby six hours old born aboard the Norwegian rescue ship Siem Pilot. ( Can you imagine setting off from Libya in the night nine months pregnant, about to give birth, and you are on a sinking rubber raft in the dark on the ocean at night in winter?) The boy child weighed some six pounds and both mother and son are healthy, according to a report in La Reppublica. The mother has requested Norwegian citizenship for her son and named him after one of the two rescue vessels that came to pick them up : Sea Bear.
Some 1100 immigrants were rescued from the middle of the Mediterranean Sea yesterday in nine distinct operations. The migrants were aboard 8 rubber rafts and one small imbarcation. Click on the caption to read the story in Italian in La Repubblica online.
Coldplay offered the income from its song to the Migrant Offshore Aid Station, the rescue ship and mission financed by Regina and Christopher Catrambone, two businesspeople who, after the tragic shipwreck of Lampedusa of October 2013, started to work in the Strait of Sicily to save migrants. "Every year MOAS aids thousands of people who (more…)
More than 1,300 migrants were rescued in 13 separate missions in the Mediterranean on Friday, bringing the total helped over the last three days to more than 2,600, according to the Italian coastguard.
The migrants, aboard 13 different vessels, were picked up in the central Mediterranean by ships from the Italian coastguard, the Italian and British navies, merchant ships, and vessels operated by non-government organisations, a statement said. Another 1,300 migrants were rescued on Wednesday.
The voyage from Libya across the Mediterranean to Italy is currently the main route to Europe for migrants. A record 181,000 made the journey last year, most on flimsy boats run by people smugglers.
More than 5,000 people are believed to have died attempting the crossing in 2016.
From The Guardian 30 Jan 2017
"Conditions for migrants and refugees in Libya are worse than in concentration camps, according to a paper sent to the German foreign ministry by its ambassador in Niger.
The German embassy in Niger has authenticated reports of executions, torture and other systematic rights abuses in camps on the refugee route in Libya, Die Welt cited the report as saying on Sunday....
“There are executions of countless migrants, torture, rapes, bribery and banishment to the desert on a daily basis,” the report says.
Witnesses spoke of five executions a week in one prison, designed to free up space for new migrants and increase smugglers’ revenues."
The 212 immigrants rescued by SOS Mediterranee's ship Aquarius were brought to shore in Sicily last night. 41 of the refugees are minors, and and 38 of them came without parents or guardians. 31 of the immigrants were women, and one of them is pregnant, according to a report in La Repubblica this morning. They came from Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Mali, Cameroon and Morocco. They left the Libyan coast from Sabrata on the night between 27 and 28 January, having paid about 1,000 Libyan dinars each, about $714 U.S.. Four traffickers were arrested and sent to jail in Siracusa, Sicily.
The ship Aquarius, operated by the humanitarian italo-franco-german NGO SOS Mediterranee, saved 125 refugees aboard a rubber raft yesterday 15 miles from the Libyan coast west of Tripoli. SOS Mediterranee operates in partnership with Doctors Without Borders. The vessel in trouble was first noted by the merchant ship Deep Vision around 7:30 a.m.: its crew kept (more…)
The mountain town of Troina in Enna Province is paralyzed by more than three feet of snow. More than 200 head of livestock have died. This is the city that Ruggero used as his base during his 36-year conquest of Sicily from the Arabs. The streets are so steep that they instituted a free bus (more…)
A large wooden boat loaded with migrants shipwrecked about thirty miles north of the Libyan coast. Eight cadavers and four survivors were collected. They said there had been 107 on board. Frontex ( European Union border police ) have dispatched an airplane and a rescue helicopter to the disaster scene, and some merchant ships are headed there to offer help, according to ANSA.
Yesterday three immigrants died off the coast of Lampedusa and 550 were saved in various rescue operations. One of the survivors was found hiding from the cold under two cadavers on a trafficker's boat. Three survivors, including one pregnant woman, were in grave condition.
Last night I learned that Vincenzo Sercia had died. I wrote about him in Mattanza. He was the former Prima Voce, the soloist, of the ciurma, the team of 100, then 80, tuna fisherman working under their supreme commander, the rais. He was already retired when I knew him in the early 1990s. I would follow him with a tape recorder begging him to sing the words of the cialome, the traditional, mystical work songs of the Favignana tonnara, but he always slipped through my fingers. These were not songs to be sung on land. It was taboo.
But one spring day in 1993, when documentary filmmaker Luciano Bovina was gathering material for a film about the tonnara, I learned that Vincenzo Sercia and a portion of the current ciurma would sing the cialome near Punta Lunga, in a rocky seaside cove for Luciano's benefit. I was invited, too, and in the pink dusk I recorded Vincenzo Sercia singing the songs. The most haunting is Ai-a-mola.
Sicily got hit with up to three feet of snow in the mountain towns. Today in La Repubblica I found this video by a video artist in Gangi in the Madonie Mountains who sent his camera up on a drone to film the snow-covered red rooftops. What a wonderful job he did. It is so gorgeous I sent him a fan letter on Twitter. Video by Ivan Mocciaro of Gangi. Click on the caption to see the short video. PLEASE watch it full screen.
Sicily was hit with an unusual snowstorm that closed schools especially in the steep mountain towns. Because it rarely snows there, communities are not equipped with snowplows or snow tires and they just have to wait for it to melt. Some mayors told their towns to shelter in place, stay indoors and called in (more…)
114 people from Senegal, Guinea, Uganda, Mali and the Ivory Coast were saved by the crew of the NGO ship Aquarius, staffed by doctors without borders, during the night between 1 and 2 January 2017. They were 108 males and six females. 22 of them were minors, and 16 of those were unaccompanied minors, including three children, one under four years old, according to La Repubblica.
From The Guardian:
"Deaths linked to Mediterranean crossings by migrants trying to reach Europe have spiked in 2016. Last year, 3,771 deaths were recorded as more than a million people made the journey, mostly from Turkey to Greece. This year, about 360,000 people have crossed, most between Libya and Italy, with far more deadly results."
A terrible Christmas shipwreck, some hundred victims, many of which were women and children. The news comes from the UN refugee commission which said that two damaged rubber rafts went down in the in the Strait of Sicly with their human cargo. 143 were saved by the Italian Coast Guard. The rest are missing or dead.
Hindered by Force 5 winds and waves in the dark of night, the coast guard ship Gregoretti took on 573 migrants found in a shipwreck at sea last night. Two of the migrants, a man and a woman, were dead. Seven had severe respiratory problems, probably due to breathing in diesel fumes. One is in desperate (more…)
From the Washington Post:
By Michael Birnbaum November 30 at 1:00 AM
BRUSSELS — Migrants heading to Italy from Libya in leaky boats and inflatable dinghies have broken an annual arrivals record, Italian authorities said this week, underscoring the rising popularity of an increasingly deadly journey that nowadays aims not for land, but for a frigid mid-sea rescue.
The number of boat migrants reaching Italy from North Africa this year surpassed 171,000, topping the previous record of 170,100, set in 2014, the Italian Interior Ministry said Monday. But 2016 is also the most lethal year for those trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe. So far, 4,690 people have died en route, compared with 3,771 deaths for all of last year, according to the U.N. refugee agency.
From The Guardian:
"You can smell the camp before you see it. The stench of rank sewage cuts through the crisp morning air in this quiet corner of western Sicily. From a distance it looks like an open-air dump, festering amid the olive groves. Men emerge from flimsy tents pitched amid piles of rubbish and ramshackle huts made of cardboard and plastic sheets.
This makeshift and filthy encampment is home to 1,200 people. All African refugees and migrants, they are desperately competing for the opportunity to work long hours in the fields as illegal agricultural workers for paltry, exploitative wages. It is autumn in Sicily. There is olive oil to be made...."
Save the Children's rescue ship Vos Hestia arrived Trapani, Sicily this morning bearing 400 migrants saved off the coast of Libya. Among them many children and women. One woman gave birth on the rescue ship. Another 641 disembarked at Catania, Sicily from the ship Aquarius run by the rescue group SOS Meditteranee.
About 240 people are suspected to have drowned this week in four separate incidents in the Mediterranean, raising the total annual death toll to an unprecedented 4,500.
From The Guardian
About 130 asylum seekers are missing after a rubber boat capsized on Sunday night, while another 100 are thought to have drowned on Tuesday night in a separate (more…)
550 people were saved in five distinct rescue operations on the Mediterranean Sea today. The rescues were coordinated by the Italian Coast Guard headquarters in Rome. In the course of the day, five corpses were also recovered from the waters.
From La Repubblica Palermo on line:
When they pulled them from the bottom of a that rubber raft about to go under their mother had just died, overcome by the mix of diesel fuel and sea water from which she tried to protect her two children. For the entire voyage of the ship Vos (more…)
From La Repubblica Palermo today:
"As the rain fell tensions rose," wrote Repubblica reporter Claudia Brunetto.
Disembarkation operations yesterday for hundreds of newly rescued boat people were only half done by 6 p.m.. The remaining hundreds were left on the ship's deck in the cold rain to await processing: a sandwich to eat, clothes (more…)
Four newborns, including one baby just months old, were among the 668 immigrants on 5 Zodiac rubber rafts saved this morning between 4 and 9 a.m. Italian time by the ship Bourbon Argos leased by Doctors Without Borders.
"It took us at least ten hours to save all of them. By luck the calm sea facilitated the (more…)
From La Repubblica Palermo online: 12 cadavers have already been pulled from the sea in the Strait of Sicily after a rubber raft went down 25 nautical miles north of the Libyan coast because of force 4 high winds and waves. As of this writing 29 people were saved. Rescuers came on five ships coordinated by the Rome (more…)
10,000 immigrants saved from the sea in the last two days, according to a story by Claudia Brunetto in La Repubblica today. 72 separate rescue operations in the Strait of Sicily. 28 bodies were also pulled from the sea, 22 of which had been aboard a vessel packed with abut a thousand people.
To honor the third anniversary of the drowning of 368 African immigrant at the dock of Lampedusa, Italian TV last night broadcast the Oscar nominated film Fuocoammare, Fire at Sea, filmed on Lampedusa. It does not have much distribution in the US. It was a beautiful sad poem. Like nothing I had ever seen before. (more…)
Rocky set up on my street corner in the Via Vittorio Emanuele every night and sold pane ca meuzza, in Sicilian, pane con la milza in Italian, or spleen and cheese sandwich in English, a typically Palermitan street food item.
Today, Sunday, alone saw 1100 migrants saved from the Strait of Sicily. The Libyan traffickers sent off eight rubber rafts all at once. Also saved were two tiny boats full of complete Libyan families. This is a new phenomenon, according to a report in the daily La Repubblica. The Libyan families are autonomous immigrants escaping (more…)
From Reuters in Rome via The Guardian:
An Italian judge has acquitted two men accused of people-smuggling and murder, saying they had been forced at gunpoint by Libyan traffickers to drive a rubber boat packed with migrants last year.
The judge in the Sicilian city of Palermo on Wednesday ordered that Jammeh Sulieman and (more…)
More than a thousand migrants, including tiny babies, were rescued in the past few hours off the coast of Libya in several operations that involved the Italian Coast Guard and and Maltese ship. IN the video you can also see a rescuer who was overcome by the diesel fumes of one of the vessels, felt ill and fainted in the waters. Imagine having to smell the diesel fumes day and night without respite during the transit of the Mediterranean.
Sicilian judge Antonino Di Matteo is one of the most threatened - and protected - men in Italy. As the chief prosecutor in Italy's "trial of the century", he has more than 20 bodyguards, ensuring his safety around the clock. On trial are 10 men who stand accused of being part of a conspiracy between the mafia and the state. Five of the defendants are mafia bosses and five are members of the political establishment.
I just did the math. The traffickers generally charge around $2,000, a phenomenal sum for people from southern Africa. Then they cram them onto boats and rafts and send them off. Without food, life jackets, water or sufficient fuel, nor a compass nor anybody who knows how to run a boat. Under the broiling sun, no shade, crammed (more…)
My translation of the article in today's La Repubblica:
The Italian Coast Guard announced that it coordinated 40 rescue operations in the Strait of Sicily Sicily yesterday saving 6,500 people. Working with the coast guard were the Italian Navy, non-governmental organizations,a nd European Union forces including Frontex, which is the European border police, and Eunaformed. (more…)
The Libyan navy has admitted taking part in a confrontation with the refugee rescue boat the Bourbon Argos in international waters off the coast of Libya, following days of speculation about who attacked it.
A navy spokesman was reported to have claimed that Libyan forces had approached the rescue boat, chartered by the aid group Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), after its crew allegedly refused to identify themselves. But the navy denied that it had fired directly at the MSF boat, and claimed it did not board the boat itself.
While searching for shipwrecked immigrants 24 nautical miles off the Libyan coast on August 17 the Doctors Without Borders ship Bourbon Argos was fired upon by unknown men in a motor boat who then boarded the ship, then gave up their enterprise when they found that all crew had secured themselves in parts of the ship (more…)
Per the Italian news agency ANSA:
Two days ago 534 immigrants were saved in 11 rescue operations in the Strait of Sicily.Five bodies were recuperated. The migrants were aboard rubber rafts and nine small boats, according to the Italian Coast Guard, ANSA reported. Involved in the rescues were Italian Navy ship Sirius, the German Navy (more…)
It's been more than a week since choppy seas have prevented traffickers from sending their clients, indigent migrants and asylum seekers, off to find their own way to Europe. They are expecting the next wave of migrants to be a huge surge of people who have been backed up on the shores of Libya, waiting to embark. The traffickers are cruel. (more…)
5,500 migrants rescued since Friday, according to a report in today's La Repubblica.
Today 1,104people were rescued, but rescuers could see that five men had died who either jumped into the sea or were pushed and drowned when help arrived. On Saturday 935 were saved. On Friday 3,400. All Africans. Nearly 60 of them youths unaccompanied by parents (more…)
Tchamba tells what it was like to be forced into an unseaworthy vessel by human traffickers who don't care if you and your child live or die. Part of an internet campaign by the Italian government called "aware migrants" to warn potential immigrants of the dangers they face.
“Migration is a decision often based on false expectations: many migrants leave their home without a concrete project of precise idea of the socioeconomic and political situation of their country of destination,” said Aware Migrants.
Among the 628 refugees who arrived Pozzuolo, Sicily this morning was Miriam, a 17-year-old orphan girl escaping her native Gambia, who crossed the desert and the sea on her own. She told the Doctors Without Borders her story.
Her mother died when she was a small child and her father was taken to prison and never heard from again. He is presumed dead ecause he opposed the current regime in Gambia Miriam had no choice but to take what the call the Hell Road between AgDez in Nigeria and Libya. At Baransate she was the only girl. "They brought me to stay in an abandoned house with 17 other men. (more…)
The NGO rescue ship Aquarius was headed to Trapani, Sicily to change crews when at 10 a.m. local time today they received a call from the Italian Navy to return to the Libyan coast to aid two rubber rafts in trouble. Five hours later they arrived and this is what they found.
"As our crew approached the first raft they saw the cadavers floating in a sea of diesel fuel," declared Jens Pagotto, chief of the Doctors Without Borders in charge of the search and rescue missions.. "The survivors remained on the raft with the bodies are too traumatized to be able to tell what happened. It is still difficult to know how these women died."
This 20th rescue operation for the German-French volunteer ship saved 209 people from two sinking rafts, of which 177 were men and 32 were women, including 50 minors. Of the 22 corpses, 21 were women. For original article in French, go to:
Palermo city officials are pleading for help from the Italian national government. All alone they are expected to take care of all the refugees who are brought by rescue ships to the city which can't even afford desks for its schools. Today the largest part of the 1,146 migrants saved in 19 marine operations in the Strait of (more…)
Due to favorable weather conditions, the sea was full of migrants on unseaworthy boats and rafts headed to Europe. La Repubblica reports that 2500 of them were saved at sea yesterday and one cadaver recovered from a raft: the man did not make the crossing alive.
Their raft deflated and at least twenty of them drowned while help was on the way in the form of the rescue ship Siem Pilot, according to the Giornale di Sicilia today.
The 366 survivors ( imagine 366 people crowded on a single rubber raft!) were from Eritrea, Ethiopia and Nigeria. 259 of them were men, 82 were women and 25 minors.
More than 2,000 migrants arrived on Sicily since yesterday, according to La Repubblica. This morning the ship Siem Pilot brought 1,040 of them to Palermo, mostly men from sub Saharan African nations. Among them were 120 unaccompanied minors. At Trapani 656 migrants arrived including a baby born aboard the rescue ship. Meanwhile 496 migrants arrived yesterday at Pozzallo, Sicily,with four presumed traffickers among them.
Click on the caption to see the brief video if the embedded video does not appear here.
Baby Manuela was the second baby born aboard the Italian Navy ship Bettica. She was born July 5. Can you imagine taking the dangerous raft ride across the ocean about to give birth?! A baby boy named Francois Manuel was born aboard the Bettica on June 27 2016.
From La Repubblica:
The desperate crossings continue without letup. Today 4,500 migrants were saved at sea and along with one corpse were brought to Sicily. THe Italian Navy and Coast Guard, with an assist from a Frontex Euro border guards) ship and a non-governmental organization ship saved 4500 hundred lives in 35 rescue operations in the Straitof Sicily today.
From La Repubblica:
PALERMO - Noureddin Atta, a confessed human trafficker from Eritrea arrested in Italy in 2015, said that sometimes the migrants don't have the money for the trip across the desert, or they make it across the Sahara but cannot find the money to cross the Mediterranean. These people are consigned to Egyptians who pay around $15,000 per migrant. They come prepared to harvest organs and transport them in thermal bags.
From La Repubblica:
A Zodiac rubber raft full of immigrants flipped over 20 miles from the Libyan coast today and ten women were drowned, while 107 survivors were saved by the coast guard. A new tragedy that happened the same day in which the sunken fishing boat that went down 18 April 2015 in the Strait of Sicily, (more…)
The last two rescues were the ship's 14th and 15th.
From a gray rubber raft they saved 132 migrants: of them 1 were women and 31 children, 28 of whom were unaccompanied, the youngest ten years old. Most were from Guinea-Conakry, Ivory Coast and Mali. They spent between three days and and 2 weeks in a hangar on the (more…)
From The Guardian:
Ship crews have pulled more than 2,000 refugees from overcrowded boats in the Mediterranean, Italy’s coastguard has said, as people-smugglers stepped up operations during two consecutive days of good weather.
More than 7,100 people have now been rescued from international waters since Thursday, many of them on the dangerous journey from Libya.
More than nine out of 10 refugee and migrant children arriving in Europe through Italy this year are travelling alone, the UN children’s agency, Unicef, said on Tuesday, warning of the “appalling” risks children face while escaping conflict and poverty.
Click on the photo caption to read the story in today's online The Guardian.
Along with the thousands of decent people who risk their lives to get to Europe by boat or raft come a small number of Nigerian criminals. In Palermo they congregate in the Ballaro market and co exist with the native Cosa Nostra in an uneasy relationship. Click on the caption to read the story in The Guardian.
392 migrants landed at Palermo's Four Winds dock today: 464 men, 119 women, 9 children aboard the Doctors without Borders rescue ship Bourbon Argon, which also carried 4 pregnant women and several unaccompanied children.
More than 2500 rescued immigrants will land in southern Italy between today and tomorrow. The Fgs Frankfurt will land at 4 p.m. at Messina, Sicily 514 immigrants (more…)
The NGO rescue ship Auarius this morning made two rescues of craft in distress in the Mediterranean Sea. The first craft carried 101 immigrants comprising 96 men and 5 women, according to the SOS Mediterranee website. The second craft in distress carried 138 people: 110 men and 28 women. The people taken aboard ship this morning were mostly from the (more…)
Today 96 immigrants were saved by the rescue ship Aquarius: 74 men including numerous minors and 22 women of whom 3 were pregnant, and two children under five. Numerous men were injured and were immediately treated by the onboard medical team of Doctors Without Borders. Today's mission makes a total of 2,002 people saved by the volunteers on the Aquarius.
Of the estimated 400 lost at sea from this one incident 40 were children, survivors say. As always, those who could not afford a position on deck were locked in the hold and died trapped there when the boat flipped Thursday. Those people would be the women and children.
One old fishing trawler was towing another with a rope (more…)
From SOS Mediterranee. Saved from a shipwreck on Wednesday, these African women mostly from Ivory Coast and Cameroon danced and sang hymns aboard the NGO rescue ship Aquarius when the coast of Sardinia, where they were being taken, came (more…)
A converted fishing traler overloaded with immigrants partially sank today in the Mediterranean between Africa and Sicily. T Italian Navy ship Vega saved 135 people, recuperated 45 bodies and rescuers are searching for at least 20 people still missing at sea.
Eighteen rescue operations took place today. Some 1,900 people were aboard 16 rubber rafts, all rescued. Several hundred (more…)
Baby Favour, newly orphaned immigrant from Nigeria, saved from a shipwreck by a woman from Cameroon who watched the baby's mother drown, a burn victim who was drowning herself, was met by the mayor of Palermo, Leoluca Orlando when she arrived in the Sicilian capital accompanied by the chief of police, Maria Volpe. The (more…)
Little Favour from Nigeria lost both her parents when the rubber raft they were on flipped all the passengers into the Mediterranean Sea, but she was saved by a 52-year-old Cameroonian woman with severe burns over her body. The Cameroonian woman is named Sofii and is in hospital in Palermo. Little Favour, in the (more…)
This overcrowded overhauled fishing trawler carrying some 600 immigrants capsized in the Mediterranean Wednesday. Click on the caption to read the story in The Guardian.
From The Guardian: "The boat is the latest of at least 38 smuggling vessels to be rescued in the southern Mediterranean since the start of the week. More than 6,000 lives have (more…)
Bernadette, one of the hundreds saved Wednesday by the non profit German and French rescue ship the Aquarius, gave birth to a baby boy around 5 p.m.. When it was learned the mother had gone into labor the ship went full steam ahead towards Sardinia so the child could be born on land, but (more…)
Imagine the horror.
A boat with about 600 migrants aboard capsized 18 miles off the coast of Libya. More than 500 immigrants were saved but already seven deaths have been ascertained and more are feared drowned. The immigrants had made a satellite telephone call for help and the Italian ships Bettica and Bergamini arrived. The boat had capsized because it (more…)
In the past 24 hours more than 2,700 African immigrants have been plucked from the sea between Libya and Europe. The private non profit rescue ship Aquarius first picked up 132 shipwreck victims from a Zodiac rubber raft. Among them, 92 men, 38 women, of whom 7 were pregnant, 14 babies under five years of age and 19 minors unaccompanied by their (more…)
A woman refugee who arrived in Palermo on a rescue ship Friday has died in hospital from stress of the voyage, according to a report in today's La Repubblica.
She arrived in grave condition: malnourished, stressed from the voyage through the desert, the long wait on the African coast and the sea crossing. Today, (more…)
For its eighth and ninth rescies the French ship Aquarius bellonging to the non profit SOS Mediterranee rescued 253 shipwreck victims on two rubber rafts. The first mission saved 137 immigrants including six women and6 children under 16 years old. The were mostly from Guinea-Conakry and Mali. Two of the women were dehydrated and very weak. At least three people had broken arms. Doctors on board said at least one broken arm was due to maltreatment and torture. As soon as these immigrants were on board the Aquarius went to its next rescue, of 116 people on another sinking raft, including 16 women and a three-year-old child.
Then the Aquarius was asked by the naval center in Rome to welcome aboard 115 other migrants who were saved by the German navy in order to take them to Italy.
From Vice News, a story by Rebecca Murray:
In an impoverished and violent neighborhood on the edge of Sebha in Libya's southern desert, 30-year-old Ibrahim from Burkina Faso is struggling to survive — and to move on.
He's stuck here, working at a laundry to make money, because he needs to save for the ride north over 400 miles of desert to Libya's coast, and a place on a boat to Italy. It's dangerous for migrants like him, who pass through here on the way from sub-Saharan Africa to what they hope is a better life in Europe.
Warring local tribes, and gangs preying on migrants, are a daily threat.
"All the time guns are turned against us to rob us," said Ibrahim, who would only give a first name, while gesturing towards a group of men also from Burkina Faso, gathered warily outside a dilapidated storefront. "Four months ago I was actually shot here by one man."
Last year, friends who had made it to Europe called Ibrahim at home and told him about how they were doing better there. So he left behind his wife, newborn baby, and work selling goods on the street, and invested $300 for the brutal desert trek with smugglers to reach Sebha. Ibrahim now needs the same amount to reach the coast at Tripoli, and up to $1,000 more to cross the Mediterranean Sea. That's a staggering sum for someone from Burkina Faso, where gross national income per capita is $700.
You may be wondering why I post so much about African immigrants landing in Sicily and what they go through. It's because I spent six months in Palermo and talked to many of them and heard the harrowing stories, a young guy in a shipwreck who saw his brother go overboard and drown, a (more…)
From today's La Repubblica:
Merchant ship and Italian Coast Guard ships carried 998 immigrants toward Italian shores this morning. They had left from the Egyptian coast. The Coast Guard ship Peluso brought 342 to safety at Augusta, Sicily, they were many men, women and children. The immigrants who landed at Augusta had gone to sea squashed (more…)
With the good weather more and more rubber rafts and big old fishing boats full of desperate immigrants take off from Libyan shores to tackle the crossing to Sicily. Here is a photo tweeted by a volunteer on the rescue ship Aquarios operated by the group SOS Mediterrane`. The rescue ships had already taken (more…)
From The Guardian:
"The chances of finding legitimate work – with youth unemployment in Italy at 37% – are slim, and his asylum application is unlikely to succeed: 66% of claims by Gambians last year were rejected, according to Eurostat.
Across Italy, migrants spend their days in parks, or loiter outside bus and train stations, homesick and shocked (more…)
The weather is clearing in the Mediterranean Sea so immigrants' voyages of despair are picking up. Three Italian ships rescued 1,664 people from nine rubber rafts in trouble. The ship Bettica aided five rafts saving a total of 588 people. The ship Bergamini saved 476 people from two rafts ( can you imagine more than 200 people on a rubber raft????!!!) The ship Grecale picked up 600 immigrants from two rafts and is headed toward Trapani, Sicily with them.
from the Giornale di Sicilia:
249 African immigrants on an old fishing boat were saved last night by the Italian coast guard ship Dattilo which was sent to pick them up after Roman authorities received an emergency satellite cell phone call from the foundering fishing boat. They were 200 nautical miles east of Sicily but within (more…)
Remember my blog about Yusupha Susso, the young Gambian refugee in Palermo who was shot in the head by a mafioso who wanted to prove he owned the territory the young man and his friends were standing in? Yusupha survived after five days in an induced coma. He speaks five languages, is the son (more…)
The caption says:
Some 500 refugees, not shown, were feared dead after a shipwreck in the Mediterranean."
Why do you think the Daily News used a photo of white people in trouble at sea when the disappeared immigrants were all from African countries? There are plenty of file photos of black immigrants being saved.
From the Giornale di Sicilia:
They said they left Libya on a rubber raft carrying 130-140 people. 108 f them were rescued by the Ship Aquarius of the SOS Mediterranean non profit group. Two drowned, six bodies were found on the bottom of the raft which had bent into a V shape, disabled, the motor (more…)
There is a boat carrying 500 immigrant missing in the Mediterranean. The boat left Egypt three days ago and nothing has been heard of them since.
The alarm was given by the Rome-based Eritrean priest Musie Zerai, for years a reference point for immigrants who find themselves in trouble in the Mediterranean sea. A few of the (more…)
33 immigrants were rescued by the Italian Coast Guard near Noto. According to La Repubblica they were probably Iraqis, Syrians, Afghanis and Somalians who left Turkey four days ago on a merchant ship who were then made to get off the ship and onto a motorboat after midnight last night.
Meanwhile the ship Orion which took aboard 464 immigrants rescued in the Strait of Sicily n four separate rescue operations by the Orion (106) the ship Bettica (118), the motorboats Aquarius (116) and Gaz Victory (124)
It took all night to process the nearly 900 African immigrants saved from the Mediterranean Sea by the Norwegian ship Siem Pilot. Among them were 138 unaccompanied minors. Four people fell into the sea during the crossing, two were saved, two drowned. Story from La Repubblica.
A young man from Gambia was peacefully talking on a street corner with friends from his native Gambia when a mafioso-type jerk from the neighborhood came up to them and started insulting them. Usually, the immigrants will turn and run. But Yusupha Susso, a 21-year-old Gambian stuck up for himself and for his friends. (more…)
Inhumane conditions caused inmates to protest at an immigration holding center in Palermo this morning where 250 people are being held in a center designed to hold no more than 180 people, according to a report in La Repubblica. More immigrants are on the way. By tomorrow morning at 7 a.m. the Norwegian ship "Siem Pilot" (more…)
This little boy from the Democratic Republic of the Congo made the entire sea crossing from Libya to Sicily dressed in a suit jacket and bow tie. His mother had told him that it would be the most important voyage of his life and that he was going to a country where the people (more…)
In a year every Palermo commuter spends 147 hours blocked in traffic, according to the TomTom Traffic Index and La Repubblica, which measures traffic flow in 295 cities in 38 countries for all of 2015. Palermo, where buses get stuck behind carriage horses, had the worst traffic snarls in Italy. Second worst traffic city in Italy is Rome. (more…)
Yesterday brought 470 new immigrants to the Sicilian coast town of Pozzallo, from four different rescue operations in the Mediterranean. One trafficker was arrested not only for promoting clandestine entry into Europe but also for the death of one immigrant who died suffocated under the weight of too many people in one rubber raft. Can you imagine? (more…)
Last night the Italian Coast Guard saved 270 immigrants found in dire straits at sea, including about 50 women and children, according to La Repubblica Palermo online. All the immigrants were all right despite being exhausted by their difficulties and the cold.. They all came from the sub-Saharan countries of Mali, Cameroon, Nigeria, Congo, Guinea and (more…)
And these are not squatters. There are people who pay dearly to live in a place like this. I know this little piazzetta well because I saw it every day when I visited the Le Balate Library for Children and Babies just a block away.
Interior hall in three-story Palazzina Cinese in La Favorita Park
Construction on King Ferdinand IV's Palazzina Cinese in La Favorita Park began in 1799. Chinoiserie was all the rage then, and this was the second Chinese-type house Ferdinand owned and was designed by the same architect.
The Liberty style mosaic of Demeter, Sicilian goddess of grain and agriculture known as the Doll of the Capo because she adorned the front of a bakery in the Capo market has been restored. She and the bakery sign were removed from the decrepit building (the bakery had gone out of business after many (more…)
The Italian Navy ship Bettica rescued a hundred migrants from motorized rubber raft in trouble in the Strait of Sicily today according to La Repubblica. Among the 100 migrants were seven women and 20 minors. Now that spring is coming, the migrant traffic, and subsequent deaths from drowning, will pick up.
The EU offers asylum to (more…)
Italian Navy ships rescued 731 immigrants this morning, Tuesday 23 Feb. 2016, according to La Repubblica. The ship Cigala Fulgosi picked up a total of 407 migrants including 4 dead bodies. The ship Bettica helped two imbarcations in trouble taking aboard 219 migrants. The ship Scirocco coordinated the rescue operations and picked up 105 migrants.
No sign of this story in the New York Times. (more…)
A 30-foot wooden craft containing thirty live immigrants presumably of North African origin arrived on the coast of Torre Salsa in the town of Siculiana in the province of Agrigento at nine this morning. The immigrants said when they left the coast of Libya, there were 40 people aboard, the rest drowned at sea. The (more…)
From the Corriere del Mezzogiorno:
110 migrants mostly from Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Ghana arrived in good shape at five this morning on the shores of Lampedusa, the Sicilian island closest to Africa. Among them were 10 women and 4 children.
From me: In the clamor over the plight of white Syrian immigrants who cross the Mediterranean from Turkey (more…)
Well, the British blogger The Sicilian Housewife just a got a job as the CEO of a charitable organization and moved back to England with her Sicilian husband and their young son. But I wanted to show you this great post of hers. She is a wonderful writer and really hits the nail on the head, doing a good job of translating the culture into English. She is so sane!
Please click on the caption and you will be taken to her refreshing blog, The Dangerously Truthful Diary of a Sicilian Housewife.
The wall of Kindness in Via Celso in the city center
Following a European trend, someone in the heart of Palermo has started a "Wall of Kindness". One clothesline where people can leave what they want to donate, or take what they need, not far from the city's principal mosque. Here is a one-minute video report from La Repubblica.
From The Guardian:
"In 1066 the Normans were not just conquering grey, cold England. They were also in sunny, fertile Sicily creating what became one of the most enlightened cultures in Europe.
The little known story of the other Norman conquest is to be told in an exhibition exploring 4,000 years of history on the island (more…)
The Norwegian Frontex ship Siem Pilot picked up 723 migrants at sea and the body of one Somali man who died during the voyage, according to La Repubblica.
Among the migrants were 29 unaccompanied minors , several pregnant women and a handicapped person with leg problems. This morning they were brought to safe harbor in Trapani.
When an overcrowded immigrant boat capsized just off the coast of Lampedusa and killed hundreds of people, island carpenter Francesco Tuccio met some of the survivors in his local church. Some of the survivors were Eritrean Christians fleeing from persecution in their home country. Though unable to help them in a concrete way, he (more…)
This morning the Italian coast guard ship Dattilo delivered 246 migrants it picked up in a vessel off the coast of Libya: 218 men, 27 women, and a minor, plus one cadaver, according to a report in La Repubblica. They are disembarking at Catania.
The report did not mention what countries the immigrants are from.
I have bought some of the best strawberries of my life in this market. It is a wonder to walk through these market streets. You often see strange African fruits here too. Like squash with bumpy bristles. It is the best place to buy small souvenirs to take home to friends, like exotic spices and Sicilian capers.
The paving stones are honeycomb-shaped! Author Giuseppe Di Lampedusa's family home gave onto this piazzetta. It was destroyed by an American bomb during WWII, rebuilt and now, just recently, turned into apartments. There used to be a water tower and fountain here that brought icy cold water from the mountains, and thirsty aristocrats would (more…)
Here's a short, silent home movie of Palermo in the thirties. It shows the Liberty gem Villa Deliella, (02:27 behind palms) destroyed in a night in the 1950s by the mafia to make way for a high rise, now the site of a car wash. Its absence breaks the hearts of Palermitans. (more…)
Palermo's brand new Archbishop Corrado Lorefice has installed four Nigerian refugees in the bishop's residence, the diocese's incredible palace across from the cathedral on Via Vittorio Emanuele: a young Nigerian woman, and a Nigerian mother of two small children.
He encouraged others to do the same, especially in this Year of Mercy as prescribed (more…)
The Villino Florio all'Olivuzza in high Liberty style will be open to the public for at least a short while beginning December 29, according to the Amo Palermo blog. It once belonged to Palermo's most influential millionaires, the Florios. Click on the caption to see interior and exterior photos of the villa. It is adream. I have yet to see this in person. Viale Regina Margherita, 38, near La Zisa.
"This is the real church," Palermo's brand new archbishop Corrado Lorefice said to those gathered to celebrate Christmas Eve at Fra Biagio Conte's Mission of Hope and Charity. Biagio, a lay brother who takes care of a thousand homeless people in three inner city homes for them in Palermo, welcomed the new archbishop to his shelter.
More than 500 immigrants rescued by two military ships and Doctors Without Borders were brought safely to land in Augusta, Sicily this day. La Repubblica's story about them did not mention where they were from because it just happened. I doubt you will read about this in the U.S. papers but 500-plus lives matter.
A barber in Palermo leaves work and goes to cut the hair of homeless men and women at a shelter near Palermo's port. I recognize some of the homeless men in this short video from La Repubblica. They are guests of the 40-bed dormitory run by La Danza delle Ombre (The Shadow Dance) a non-profit organization founded by Dr. Marina Scardavi, Palermo's street doctor to the homeless. From their Facebook page.
From the Facebook group "Palermo in Bianco e Nero" (Palermo in black and white), a group pf passionate Palermo lovers, many of whom are amateur historians of the city, great connoisseurs of the city. I will translate the first few comments here:
When the palms were still little!
When the theater was brand new!
When Palermitans loved and respected Palermo. (more…)
Let's see how this goes in Palermo. If people respect the bikes, don't steal them, don't trash them out of pure joy in vandalism. The capital city's brand new bike -sharing system is all set up and ready to go tomorrow.
The service provides 400 bikes, plus 20 more electric-motor-assisted bikes, at 37 bike stations. The electric bikes will be charged by solar panels installed in the bike stations.
From the Guardian:
From 1 January to 6 December this year, 11,360 unaccompanied children like Jamieson – mainly from Eritrea, Nigeria, Gambia, Somalia and Senegal – arrived on its shores.
‘I did not ever think I would reach here,” says 17-year-old Jamieson, staring down at his dusty blue Crocs, given to him when he disembarked from the rescue boat in Sicily, in August. “I look back and I could have died many times. But I try to stop thinking of it. (more…)
The theft of Caravaggio’s Nativity with St Francis and St Lawrence from an oratory in Palermo in 1969 is still considered one of the worst art crimes in history.
The 17th-century masterpiece – a depiction of the newborn Christ on a bed of straw, painted in the chiaroscuro technique – was thought to have been painted by Caravaggio in Rome and later moved to Sicily, where it hung for centuries before being cut from its frame by two thieves in the night, never to be seen again.
If you were living in Palermo, this evening you could attend a free jazz concert given in this room at the mansion/museum of Palazzo Mirto just off Piazza Marina in the historic center of Palermo.
The Thrinax Quartet will play the canopied, tapestried, frescoed and chandeliered baldacchino room at the Mirto Palace at five this afternoon. The concert is dedicated to Louis Prima. Admission is free.
The La Spiga d'Oro bakery in Palermo says the following on its Facebook page today:
To you who are having a hard time....
To you who have a family to feed....
To you who can't stretch the budget to the end of the month...
Evenings from 8 p.m. to to 9p.m. stopby and we'll make available everything we did not sell in the line of bread, pizzas, savory buns, foccacce and more...
Our small gesture is just a little help for your life!!!!
The Spiga d'Oro Bread Bakery.
(It's name means "Golden Grain" Bakery.)
Two young Palermo architects have proposed recreating Ernesto Basile's Liberty masterpiece, Villa Deliella, according to the original blueprints which still exist, and to make a museum of it. The idea has the support of politician, art critic and entertainer Vittorio Sgarbi. The art nouveau masterpiece was destroyed over a weekend in 1959 during the Sack of Palermo by mob types who wanted to clear space for their concrete high-density retail/ apartment buildings. From Best of Sicily magazine: (more…)
3,000 companies, 12,000 properties and €2bn in bank deposits. Read all about it here in the Guardian in English. Now I have a better idea of the temptations that tantalized Judge Saguto, stripped of her duties and salary as Palermo's head minder of confiscated Mafia property. Click on the caption to read the Guardian's story.
A corpse arrived in Trapani along with 308 immigrants around 8 this morning aboard a Doctors Without Borders ship,, according to La Repubblica. It seems the dead person suffered some health problems while aboard one of three motorized rubber raft rescued two days ago from waters off the coast of Libya by three ships,
the Spanish (more…)
Palermo: more than a thousand immigrants were saved in aid operations about thirty miles off the Libyan coast last night. They were trying to reach Italy aboard six motorized rubber rafts and one old fishing boat. Aboard the fishing boat were crowded 400 migrants, who were saved by te British ship Enterprise. Three other ships, (more…)
Signora Maria and Dottoressa Riccobene in Ciolino.
I just came across an old photo of Signora Maria, who was the subject of the first chapter in Stone Boudoir. She is being held by one of the twin Riccobene sisters, either Antonietta or Rosaria, the pharmacists in Ciolino.
Seven women and one man were found dead aboard a rubber raft rescued off the coast of Libya today. The dead had apparently died from asphyxiation and struggle, according to La Repubblica. The other 113 aboard were taken to a safe place by an Italian military ship. Over the weekend a total of 1,300 immigrants were rescued at sea.
Last night 402 immigrants arrived at Lampedusa, a Sicilian island, the part of Europe closest to north Africa, aboard a the Coast Guard boat which rescued them. They were Somalis, Eritreans, and Syrians.
A group of young German utopians on Sunday moored a rescue platform for migrants off the Sicilian coast. They designed it, built it and financed it with crowdfunding. A delegation from the collective Zentrum für Politische Schönheit literally Center for Political Beauty- left the port of Licata shortly after dawn and at (more…)
Two years ago today a migrant boat just a few feet from Europe's shores flipped over when it arrived in the dark and someone lit a shirt on fire to alert authorities and everyone moved to one side of the boat to avoid the flames. Worldwide reaction: shock, then forgetting, moving on. Survivors are (more…)
I listened to Soraya Sahadi Nelson report on the refugee crisis from Berlin on the NPR national news last night. She talked about the people walking from Syria. When asked by the show host about refugees in the Mediterranean, she talked about the WHITE people moving through Greece. She didn't mention the 5,000-plus black (more…)
A 5-day-old baby was amog the migrants rescued by the Italian military ship Mimbelli in the Strait of Sicily. They were on an old fishing boat, overcrowded to say the least. There were 54 women and 45 children. Two of the women were 9 months pregnant. They were all transferred to another ship and brought to the (more…)
Two African refugees learn to crew a racing sailboat with an Italian team at the world championships in Barcelona. The two African men had seen 150 of their fellow immigrants drown like flies before their (more…)
View from the Tower of S. Nicolo`, Albergheria, Palermo
On 12 September, the Tower of the Church of San Nicolo` in the heart of Albergheria in Old Palermo will be open until midnight for half-hour tours. The view is so beautiful. Palermo at night can't be beat.
I noticed that with one picture of a Syrian boy, a Caucasian by race, a boy showing white skin between his pants leg and his little shoe, washed up limp and lifeless on a beach, Europe and the world stood up and took notice. God bless that boy, his brother, his mother, his bereaved father, his whole family and his country. I am going to use his picture at the top of all my stories about the African people who also die trying to get to Europe. (more…)
At 8 this morning Irish rescue ship L. E. Niamh arrived at the Sicilian port of Pozzallo carrying 329 immigrants rescued yesterday from a boat in difficulty in the Strait of Sicily. They were almost all men, with just 10 women this time. One was pregnant and was sent right away to a hospital for a check-up, according to La Repubblica.
80 Egyptian children and babies and 21 Egyptian adults arrived in Sicily today. The Coast Guard had never seen so many unaccompanied minors in one boat. They say most of the adults will be sent back to Egypt.
One Nigerian woman gave birth to a baby boy on the Coast Guard rescue ship that picked her (more…)
838 refugees from Africa are headed toward the Sicilian city of Messina today. A rubber raft went down off the coast of Libya, one person drowned. The ship Cigala Fulgosi will arrive at the Sicilian port of Augusta with 394 immigrants rescued. 781 immigrants, including 11 pregnant women, and six cadavers will arrive at the Sardinian port of Cagliari, according to the Palermo edition of today's La Repubblica online newspaper.
I noticed that Caucasian immigrants to Europe get a lot of press, but he continuing massacre of drowning African immigrants trying to get to Europe doesn't get covered in the states. I am giving you te news I read every day on the front page of La Repubblica online.
The rickety boatloads of immigrants (more…)
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.
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…)
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…)
Front page news in today's La Repubblica Palermo on line edition:
Latest wave of immigrants. Between two and three thousand immigrants in rubber rafts and old boats asked for rescue from Italian and European agencies spread out across the Strait of Sicily. More than 20 requests came into the Italian coast guard which coordinates the (more…)
Two immigrants from Ghana were riding the bus, the 101, which passes every ten minutes. Two local guys got on the bus, smoking cigarettes, which is not allowed. The immigrants asked the Palermo boys to put out their cigarettes, and the two started to beat up the immigrants, who defended themselves. The bus driver stopped (more…)
Eight traffickers, including a minor, were arrested in connection with the deaths of 49 immigrants who suffocated in the hold of a broken-down fishing vessel. Survivors of the fateful voyage arrived at Catania today. They said that those who tried to escape the hold were beaten back with clubs and kicks to the head by the traffickers.
The Norwegian ship Siem Pilot docked at Catania and offloaded the 312 survivors of yet another Mediterranean crossing, and 49 corpses of those who died suffocated in the hold of the old fishing vessel they were on. Catania Mayor Enzo Bianco proclaimed a city-wide day of mourning and promised a dignified burial for all the bodies.
If you have enough money to pay the traffickers, you can get a spot in the open air on the deck, and maybe even be allowed to wear a life jacket, which takes up precious, expensive room. Everybody else is relegated to the hold and diesel fumes -- locked in -- for the duration of the sea crossing. This usually means the hold is filled with women and children , who earn less and can pay less to the traffickers.
At least 40 African migrants died suffocated in the diesel fumes of the old fishing boat that traffickers used to take them to Sicily. 312 people were saved by the merchant marine ship, including women and children, according to a front page report in today's La Repubblica. Another 420 immigrant are expected to arive at the port of Augusta tomorrow. Some 2,300 African immigrants lost their lives at sea between Africa and Italy in 2015. (more…)
Night of the Shooting stars from the bell tower of the Church of San Nicolo in Albergheria, Palermo
The non-profit association Terradamare offers a unique occasion to tourists and locals alike to climb the stairs to the terrace around the belltower of San Nicolo` di Bari in Albergheria to see the night sky over the historic center of Palermo and to launch a little lantern from on high. Tickets are three euro. (more…)
They tell of torture in the country of origin or during the long voyage to Europe, which may last years. But also psychological traumas undergone n the Italy's "welcome centers". The walk-in clinic of Palermo General Hospital Immigration Medicine has been in service for seven years thanks to the work of volunteers who work (more…)
There 13 dead bodies aboard an overloaded boat full of immigrants aided yesterday in the Strait of Sicily by the Irish military boat "L. E. Niamh.". On the refugee boat were 522 people, and the corpses lay among them. The causes of the deaths of the 13 were not clear. Besides this operation, yesterday saw another four (more…)
The most recent arrivals have been turned away and sent to Sardinia and Calabria because Sicilian immigrant "reception" centers, where immigrants are housed and fed while their fates are decided-- accepted as refugee or sent back to Africa -- are overcrowded and not up to the job of accepting or deferring waves of thousands of arrivals. (more…)
A ten-year-old diabetic girl escaping war in Syria boarded a wooden vessel with her father, who has a degree in economics, and her sisters, headed for the Italian coast. They were 320 people squashed together like sardines. The traffickers made more room by throwing the little girl's day pack into the sea. It contained vials of insulin (more…)
The 391st edition of the five-day Feast of Santa Rosalia started today outside the cathedral where her bones are kept in a giant silver urn. The theme of this year's "festino" is Misericordia, which translates as mercy or benevolence.
You cannot tell a book by its cover. From the outside this palace does not look like much. The man who showed me around has a workshop downstairs. He went to school in this building, now a private residence owned by the family who once owned Palermo's soccer team. And a pasta factory.
Palermo Mayor Leoluca Orlando arrived with a statue of Santa Rosalia, the city's patroness, in Mondello, saying the symbolic act reminds everyone that many, many immigrants arrive by sea too, and that they deserve to be welcomed and loved. The theme of this year's five-day feast, which begins Tuesday, is La Misericordia. It means (more…)
The Italian Coast Guard ship Dattilo moored at the port of Palermo and disembarked the 717 refugees saved from a Thursday shipwreck off the shores of Libya along with 12 cadavers. The Dattilo picked up the victims and the survivors along with the ship Corso and two motorboats that left from Lampedusa.
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…)
Since this morning 2,000 immigrants have been saved at sea by Italian naval vessels and the ship Moas Phoenix of the Mr. and Mrs Catrambone. (Catrambone is a wealthy Italian-American businessman based in Malta and his wife is from Calabria. The first time she saw a floating jacket in the Mediterranean from her yacht and (more…)
1,019 Syrians, Palestinians and Moroccans arrived at the port of Pozzallo, Sicily in the last 24 hours, according to La Repubblica. Doctors have found 300 cases of scabies, and five cases of measles. Four pregnant women were sent to the hospital and there was a boy with a traumatic injury to his neck.
The ship Peluso was (more…)
Abdel Fahim Taktak, a 92-year-old refugee from Syria survived eight days at sea and upon landing at Augusta, Sicily after rescue by Italian authorities was seen playing with his grandchildren. He was part of a group of 187 men, 38 women and 9 children who had taken off from the coast of Egypt and were rescued from their fishing (more…)
The oldest business sign in Palermo, a Liberty ( Art Nouveau) mosaic of the goddess Demeter, goddess of grain, which advertised the only recently defunct Panificio Morello, a bakery in the Capo street market, is beng removed from its site on the front of a derepit building and being taken to the Palazzo Aiutamicristo for (more…)
Nearly 4,000 boat people from Africa were saved over the weekend. The ships of the Italian navy were employed in the continuous, non-stop rescue operations in the Mediterranean, aiding boats and rafts in trouble in the waters of the Strait of Sicily, between Lampedusa and Libya, bringing the survivors to the ports of Augusta, Reggio (more…)
The wave of boats headed for the Italian coasts never stops, the caption says. Some ten cadavers were pulled from the sea in a rescue operation. On just 2 April, the ship Fiorillo had aided 397 refugees and the Bersagliere took on board a total of 778. It is one of the highest number (more…)
Here is a video of a funeral cortege that stops traffic in the middle of Piazza Independenza in downtown historic center of Palermo. They open the door to the hearse carrying the corpse, and set off fireworks so the deceased can see them. One commentor said, " (more…)
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…)
The Worst Ever Migrant Tragedy. From La Repubblica:
The traffickers had packed more than 700 immigrants like animals on a 20-meter old wooden fishing boat and set them sailing across the Mediterranean from a point east of Tripoli, Libya. One of them had a satellite telephone and alerted the Italian National Center of the Coast (more…)
Mayor Orlando says Europe has washed its hands of the tragedy and abandoned Sicily and Italy to its own devices when it comes to handling the huge continuing wave of refugees.
Three rescued Somalis, picked up by Maltese mercantile ship, arrived at Palermo and were hospitalized for health problems. Altogether 91 Somalis arrived at Palermo's (more…)
They left on two rubber rafts from Tripoli but they came from Senegal, Nigeria, the Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Mali, Siera Leone and the Ivory Coast. All men but for one woman ho had married her husband, who accompanied her, this year. The immigrants were piled on top of each other in the (more…)
Last week Sicily was cut in two when an overpass on the Palermo-Catania Highway A19 broke up. One of the pilons sustaining the bridge ceded to a mudslide, leaned like the Tower of Pisa and is now pressing against other pilons. Engineers say the bridge will have to be demolished and rebuilt. Sicily has (more…)
After the crumbling of several buildings in the neglected Vucciria, the city has finally decided to spend some time and money fixing the historic market site up. It will take a year, with a firm that "works very fast", to pull up the limestone paving stones, work on the light and telephone cables and (more…)
Sicilian police have jailed 15 Moslems accused of throwing more than ten Christians overboard into the open sea. They were a hundred moslems and Christians traveling together on a trafficker's rubber raft seeking to reach Sicily ( and Europe) when a fight over religion broke out.
A thousand refugees are expected to land in Sicily today. (more…)
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.
Five overloaded, unseaworthy ex-fishing boats loaded with would-be immigrants were saved from danger near the Libyan shores . The Italian Navy had received a distress call via satellite phone warning that three boats were in need of rescue. The ships sent found five boats full of people and rescued all of them, taking them to Lampedusa and Porto Empedocle in Sicily.
This votive altar was in the Albergheria quarter. A the end of this street are five steps down and you are right in front of the gated entrance to the cathedral. I loved the lights strung on in vertical stripes.
It is a tradition all over southern Italy to promise a thing of value to a saint in exchange for a "grazia ricevuta", a favor received, often a cure. Those who could afford it often bought silver miniature bas relief replicas of the body part which received the grace. They pin them to the (more…)
From La Repubblica/Palermo edition of 22 March 2015.
A restaurant owner has given up and decided to move out of the Vucciria market area and night life hub of Palermo after a bonfire on the Eve of Saint Joseph's Feast (March 19) practically destroyed his business and put his customers and staff in danger. (more…)
From New York-based Karen La Rosa of LaRosaWorks.com:
"Draw each day with instruction, guidance, and handouts to deepen your understanding of drawing skills, your understanding of Sicily, and your own creative process, all done with an eye towards fun, exploration and discovery."
Via Pannetiere 3. My neighbor, but no one was home. A friend of mine let me sleep in her guest cave for a couple of nights, a couple of times. By the second time, she had inherited a different one which her youngest son used as a kid's club house. Comes with a view of the (more…)
An old photo of the sirocco room before it was filled with refuse. It is now clean and pristine again, thanks to the scouts of Sicily.
This is an outdoor sirocco room where eighteenth -century grandees would go to cool off in the summer when the hot, humid wind blew up from the Sahara. The source of the cooling, flowing water is a qanat. It is located withing the Palermo city limits, in a southern, somewhat rural, quarter called Altarello (more…)
By June of 2014, 59,880 migrants had landed on Italy's coast, more than arrived in all of 2011, and Sicily got 53,000 of them. All of them were treacherous voyages. Thousands of minors arrived without any family. They paid an average of $1,600 to board a broken-down fishing boat packed with 300 people, and no life vests. Life vests take up room. (more…)
We are deep into winter in Vermont and I am thinking about these blue and white places. Sicily is such a beautiful island. Scala dei Turchi is near the big town of Agrigento but actually in the smaller town of Realmonte, where I stayed for a few days in 2010. The white stone is hard-packed gypsum. Realmonte citizens are the happiest Sicilians I have yet found.
In the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the women of Danissini, in downtown Palermo, were renowned launderers for the rich and aristocratic. They took in the counts' and dukes' soiled, frilly white shirts, washed them in the stream you see here and ironed them. Danissini is one of the poorest parts of Palermo. (more…)
More than 300 dead. The 29 bodies were just those that were recovered. There four gommoni, large rubber rafts, in the worst seas the Italian coast guard had ever seen. The survivors said they were forced to leave Libya at gunpoint. The 29 bodies were PEOPLE WHO HAD BEEN RESCUED off the coast of Libya but died (more…)
Twenty-nine people died of exposure to the cold on a rescue from the sea. They died while being rushed to Lampedusa, the Sicilian island closest to Africa. They were rescued from some of the worst conditions at sea, waves twenty feet high.
Update: here is the story in the NYT:
Here is the mosaic of Il Capo, one of Palermo's three suqs. It is an art deco (in Sicily they would say Stile Liberty) mosaic depicting Demeter, the goddess of grains and agriculture, the mother of Persephone, and it is embedded in the exterior wall of the now closed Panificio Morello. A few tiles (more…)
Everywhere you walk in historic Palermo, there are mattresses in the street. They can be taken away by the city for free by simply calling a toll-free number, but I think either the Palermitani don't know about this service, or they leave the mattresses for homeless people to sleep on. Some are thoughtfully kept (more…)
I took this picture back in 1986. Giuliana is in the mountains in Palermo province, a beautiful spot. This church, to which a lady has attached her wash line, was church then a mosque ( with the addition of the dome, then back to a church again.
My grandmother or my grandfather might have boarded one of these ships. Emigration is big business. It was legal to go to the United States, so my grandparents could travel ( separately; they weren't married when they left Sicily) in safe, steel ships instead of on rubber rafts or in unseaworthy fishing boats like the (more…)
Archeogeologist Dr. Francesca Mercadante and her husband, Dr. Pippo Locascio, of Partanna-Mondello, have dicovered an intact megalithic Bronze Age village within Palermo's northern city limits, on the littoral below the cliffs of Capo Gallo between the seaside villages of Sferracavallo and Mondello.
Cristina Buccellato, artisan in Europe's smallest store, U Pirtusu, which means "The Hole" in Palermo dialect. The store is just one meter wide! Here is one of her latest creations. The charm is the Trinacria, a symbol of Sicily, with a cutout of the island in the center, all cut and worked by hand.
The Palermo city archives off Via Maqueda is an experience in itself. It was designed like the inside of a cargo ship. It was recently spruced up and the staff offer guided tours of the collections. Thanks to Facebook group Palermo in Bianco e Nero for this photo. This shot is taken from the (more…)
From one of my favorite blogs, Amo Palermo. The author walks around the city center with a camera and snaps pictures of buildings and streets undergoing improvements. It's a blog with a lot of positive energy. The author now has a regular column in the newspaper Il Corriere .
Front-page headlines on 1 January 2015. Snow on the beach at Cefalu`. Snow on the palm trees. Dirty city snowmen. Only two snowplows in all of the Madonie mountains. Photos sent in to La Repubblica by its readers at this link:
Spider Man, the burglar, caught with his backpack on.
For the autumn of 2012 I lived at the Palazzo Vannucci on the Cassaro, I had a third-floor bedroom that stretched from the facade of the palace to the back of the palace, plus the studio underneath that, (more…)
This used to be a second-floor French door with balcony overlooking the Capo market.
Much of Palermo's historic center, the largest in Europe, is walled up like this window in what used to be a lovely art deco building above the heads of the market merchants. Some such buildings house newly-arrived clandestine immigrants.
Near the end of the Capo street market in the quarter behind the Palermo cathedral is a narrow lane called Street of the Flying Chairs where once these elegant travel booths were made. The cabs were carried on long poles on men's shoulders and seemed to fly above the crowds. Men and women of (more…)
I ate my first persimmon in Palermo. You cut off the top and eat he flesh with a small spoon. So sweet, one does not talk while eating them. Friends will bring over a basket of them for dessert. They look like frosted tomatoes.
A multi-headed monster puppet representing the Cuticchio family of puppeteers
In the hundreds of episodes that make up one drama from the repertoire of the Siciilan puppet theater, there is one many-headed monster which appears only once onstage. This lifelike sculpture is a spoof on that monster, representing instead the now-deceased head of the Cuticchio family and his children, puppeteers all, growing from his head.
I found this nut and seed store while wandering the back streets of La Kalsa, the central Palermo neighborhood directly across the street from my palace rooms in Via Vittorio Emmanuele. I just liked the way it looked.
I was walking home from an event at the Santa Chiara urban mission in the ancient, low-income Albergheria neighborhood of Palermo when these boys who were kicking a soccer ball around in the street said, "Take my picture! We'll be on YouTube!"
These ancient wooden doors lead to a flat above the Capo market.
Many southern Asian immigrants live in this, the Capo market neighborhood. These rough wooden doors looked positively medieval. Often, univiting, creaking, forbidding, even, heavy wooden doors lead to enchanted colonnaded courtyards filled with sunlight and a fountain, such a surprise. In Palermo, you never know what is behind the next closed door.
If you die young in Ballaro` someone will immortalize you with a giant mural of your face and maybe a garden, tended like an altar, that no one will defile. Pasquale Ferrara and Giuseppe Giufridda were two youths of Ballaro` and this mural of them was near the Mercato del Usato, the used items market, otherwise (more…)
Archeogeologist Francesca Mercadante, of Partanna Mondello, photographs an opium poppy growing in someone's driveway garden in Sferracavallo, a fishing village quartiere on the north side of Palermo. Dr. Mercadante said that a vase found at a Greek temple in Sicily had vegetation depicted on it. One decorative illustration, for many years, had been misinterpreted (more…)
Just got back from four days away in Santa Margherita Belice where I stayed at my cousin's place. She said a few years ago their home was robbed, twice.
"All the gold," she said, all the gold items her children had been given at birth, at baptism, at graduations, the bracelet her husband gave her (more…)
A corner of the 100-seat dining room of the Accoglienza Femminile of Fra Biagio Conte's Missione Pace e Speranza
Last week I visited the Women's Home, one of three centers comprising Brother Biagio Conte's Mission of Peace and Hope. It houses roughly a hundred homeless women, palermitans and immigrants, single women, women with young children and women with infants. It is housed inside the former convent of Saint Catherine of Sienna in Via (more…)
I spent yesterday afternoon with Mohammed, a homeless Iranian architect, a vagabond by nature, a kind man who helps all the other homeless people less fortunate than he. He lives with three or four dogs, and visiting pigeons, cats, seagulls, lizards and human friends, in a camper by the sea, at the Foro Italico, (more…)
This is just the bottom decorative part of a 6-foot-tall faceless clock he is making to install in the Provincial office building across the street, the palace where he was born.
Marcello Lampone has invented an electro-mechanical (non-digital) watch and/or clock with no minute- hand nor hour- hand. I cannot imagine how you can tell the time from it. He won't let me see it , or explain it, until it is patented. He is hoping for a sponsor to help him pay for the (more…)
Guided visit today to the ex- Florio tonnara in Arenella, Palermo, conducted by the president of the non-profit association, La Palermo Dei Misteri, anthropologist and professor Carlo Di Franco, a man who can make the stones talk.
The tonnara had been there for three centuries when the Florio family ( the Sicilian Rockefellers, originally from (more…)
Link to wonderful photos of the interior of my favorite church in downtown Palermo, la Martorana, a Norman-Arab beauty with gold and lapis mosaics by Byzantine masters and inscriptions in Arabic on column capitals. Thanks to AmoPalermo blog for these photos. The church was most recently restored in November 2012.
Beautiful majolica-covered church dome in Ballaro`
Prof. Carlo Di Franco, an anthropologist, author and president of the non-profit cultural association Palermo Dei Misteri, has been walking me around the four quarters of Palermo. Most recent trip was to Ballaro`, where he pointed out this beautiful, majolica tile-covered church cupola known locally and affectionately as the Breast of Ballaro`, although he named it in Sicilian.