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African Migrants Identification Proce...
Pozzallo, Sicily
By Alessio Tricani
10 Aug 2015

African migrants for identification process at the First Aid and Reception Centre in Pozzallo port, in Sicily, Italy, on August 10, 2015.

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Refugees in Italy Create a Football Team
Mineo
By Jobard Olivier
24 Jan 2015

Refugees in Italy create a football club that plays in Italian official league. ASD Cara Mineo was created in 2013 after residents at a migrant reception centre began holding football tournaments among themselves. Now their team of 25 players is officially registered by the Italian football federation, and has joined the 10th tier of the football league known as Category Three. The team had to miss the first three games because players could not be registered without residence permits, which still have not arrived. But after "a little goodwill from everyone," they were allowed to participate, their spokesman told a local newspaper. Originally, the team consisted of refugee footballers from countries around Africa, who lived on 2.5 euros a day and three free meals offered them in the camps.

"Rice, pasta, fruits, it's a nice diet for a football player,” said Mohamed Traore, a 24 year-old defender who plays for the team.

Abou Daouda, 23 years old from Ghana (last photo) did not want to play with the team. He loves football but he does not like the level nor the style of the team. "Me, I play Brazilian football,” he said, so he prefers to run alone, and to stay fit following his own regime.

These young migrants dream of entering Europe legally and making a life for themselves and their families through football. So far, all of the players who started the team now live on the European continent and have secured residency.

Thousands of migrants land in Sicily each year after making the crossing from north Africa, often by boat. About 4,000 people are held at the reception centre in Mineo, which formerly housed the families of US military personnel stationed at the nearby Sigonella Nato base.

FULL ARTICLE AVAILABLE ON REQUEST

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I am 220
Trapani, italy
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
15 Oct 2013

Number 220 gets a disposable camera to take photos of life inside the refugee camp. All refugees get a number upon arrival in Trapani. Photo by: Berta Banacloche

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I am 220
trapani, italy
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
15 Oct 2013

Photo by: Refugee 220
The sun sets over the old gym that now serves as a refugee camp.

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I am 220
trapani, italy
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
15 Oct 2013

Photo by: Refugee 220
A refugee lays on one of the mattresses in the old gym that now serves as a refugee camp. Days are filled with idle time for most refugees.

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I am 220
trapani, italy
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
15 Oct 2013

Photo by: Refugee 220
Nigerian refugees flock together on the patio of the old gym that now serves as a refugee camp.

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I am 220
trapani, italy
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
15 Oct 2013

Photo by: Refugee 220
Refugees pass time sitting on the patio of the old gym that is now their home. They are allowed out about three hours per day, the rest of the time they spend inside.

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I am 220
trapani, italy
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
15 Oct 2013

Photo by: Refugee 220
A refugee scavenges the garbage for valuables. Most of them left Libya in small fishing boats without much space for possessions.

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I am 220
trapani, italy
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
15 Oct 2013

Photo by: Refugee 220
A refugee lays on his mattress in the old gym that now serves as a refugee camp.

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I am 220
trapani, italy
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
15 Oct 2013

Photo by: Refugee 220
Dinner through the eyes of refugee no. 220.

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I am 220
trapani, italy
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
15 Oct 2013

Photo by: Refugee 220
Days are filled with idle time for the refugees who now live in an old gym.

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I am 220
trapani, italy
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
15 Oct 2013

Photo by: Refugee 220
View through the door of the gym that now serves as the new home of refugee no. 220

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I am 220
Trapani, italy
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
15 Oct 2013

Photo by: Refugee 220
A refugee walks through the old gym that now serves as a refugee camp.

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I am 220
trapani, italy
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
15 Oct 2013

Refugee story from Sicily, Italy, including photos made by the refugee in his camp.

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I am 220
trapani, italy
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
15 Oct 2013

Photo by: Refugee 220
The floor of the gym, that now serves as a refugee camp, is covered in mattresses.

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I am 220: Surviving a Migrant Boat Di...
Trapani, Italy
By Transterra Editor
11 Oct 2013

October 15, 2013
Trapani, Italy

"I am 27 years old, originally I came from Nigeria. I crossed from Libya to Italy in a small boat. 105 people went with me and 103 of them survived," said Refugee 220.

In Sicily I stumbled upon a fenced camp in the harbor town of Trapani. At this camp I met number 220. He is one of about 800 people who crossed over from Africa to Italy in the last three weeks. After the tragedy of the third of October, the sea has become a human cemetery. Number 220 is one of the lucky ones. He made it to land.

Number 220 says he was living in Libya, but the situation there drove him to attempt the crossing. He survived, but two women on his small boat died before a commercial ship took them on board. Eventually they ended up in an old gym in Trapani. He spends his days here with 85 other young men. ‘This is already better than Libya, I feel safe here and don’t hear gunshots anymore.’

The men in the gym have no idea what will happen to them. They don’t speak a word of Italian and the guards of the camp don’t speak English. They are totally in the dark about their status and tell me I am the first person to speak English to them since they arrived.

Since the guards don’t give me any information either, and won’t let me enter the camp, number 220 and me decide to meet outside the camp. Here I give him a disposable camera, so he can show me his life inside the camp. ‘I don’t do much inside, mainly sleep and sit on the patio with other guys from Nigeria. And wait.’

The quality of these analogue photos is not the best. Number 220 is not a professional photographer. But in my opinion his slightly dark, bleakly colored and out of focus photos perfectly reflect 220’s life at the moment. He lives on the edge of our society. His name is Louis. He could be a friend.

Photos and Text By:
Berta Banacloche / Jeffry Ruigendijk / Refugee 220

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I am 220
trapani, italy
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
11 Oct 2013

Photo by: Refugee 220
The scarce possessions of the refugees are laid out on their mattresses. Approx. 85 refugees live in this gym at the moment.

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I am 220
trapani, italy
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
11 Oct 2013

Photo by: Refugee 220
Refugees pass time on their mattresses inside the old gym that now serves as a refugee camp.

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I am 220
Trapani, italy
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
11 Oct 2013

Photo by: Refugee 220
The basket now serves as a drying rack for refugees in an old gym in Trapani.

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I am 220
trapani, italy
By Jeffry Ruigendijk
11 Oct 2013

Photo by: Refugee 220
View from the patio, through the eyes of refugee no. 220.

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South-Eastern Sicily: The Boats on th...
Sicily
By János Chialá
08 Oct 2013

Hundreds of boats lie abandoned on the shores of Southern Sicily after ferrying migrants across the Mediterranean. Thousands of people every year risk their lives to reach Europe, taking to the sea on these often unseaworthy fishing vessels, many of which are lost at sea with their human cargo.

The stretch of sea between the island and north-Africa, known in Arabic as Madiq Qilibiyah (strait of Kelibia), is crossed every year by thousands of migrants on their way to Europe. Many of the boats they sail on, usually former fishing boats sold for scrap and often basically unseaworthy, end up abandoned on the Sicilian shores.

Around the year 1080, the Sicilian poet Ibn Hamdis was forced to leave his beloved island by the Norman conquest and seek refuge in Andalusia. “The crossing at sea”, he wrote in one of his many nostalgic poems on his misfortunes, “wasn't harder than the events which forced the journey upon you”. Ten centuries after, thousands of people are caught up in such bad events that they decide to risk their lives and take to the Mediterranean sea in order to reach Europe. While the journey might be uncertain and largely determined by opportunity, the destination is sometimes clear, with many trying to reach relatives and friends that have gone before and can help in resettling in a new country. Family reunions are not always allowed, and the European Dublin Law forces migrants to remain in the country where they ask for asylum.

According to the local fishermen, those used by the migrants are old, disarmed fishing boats, most likely at the end of their career and definitely not safe for such a long sail. North-African ship-owners probably save some good money in selling them rather than having to scrap them, an activity which will eventually have to be paid for by Italian taxpayers, when and if the Italian authorities do take care of what is a growing presence across the small ports of Southern Sicily. More often than not the boats break down during the crossing, leaving their passengers stranded at sea for days until they are rescued by someone on the other side. With each migrant paying up to 5,000 dollars for the trip, usually in advance, and hundreds of boats crossing every year, this is a lucrative business which guarantees huge profits to organized criminals who do not appear to give much importance to the lives of those who are forced to turn to them. At the European end of the crossing, the boats are the responsibility of local Coast Guard commanders such as Luca Sancilio, head of the port of Siracusa, who are tasked with making sure that the migrants which are sighted make it to shore safely, whether on their own or after having been rescued. “We exist to safeguard human lives”, he said on his vast powers in dealing with emergencies at sea, such as ordering any other ship to offer assistance to those in distress, “which is the first law of the sea”.

According to their testimonies, the migrants spend days on these small fishing boats, completely at the mercy of the sea and the boat's crew members. However most people in Sicily explain that such small boats cannot carry enough fuel to make the journey, and in any case appear too clean to have been used by hundreds over several days, and are therefore most likely towed near the European shores by larger “mother-ships”, some of which have indeed been intercepted by police in an attempt to shut down the trade.

Most migrants recall their time at sea as an extremely scary experience, well known to be a mortally dangerous one. Thousands have died in a long series of shipwrecks, fires and even tragic collisions with Italian police boats, yet many more remain willing to face storms, thirst, sharks and the vast sea in order to come to Europe. For many, however, the crossing is just a small part of a long journey that has taken them through deserts, war zones or prisons.

After the end of their journey, the boats are confiscated by Italian authorities, who also try to individuate the crew members among those who disembark, who are often of many different nationalities and do not know each other. Italian legislation mandates harsh sentences for anybody who assist illegal immigration, in an attempt to stem the flow of boats which has even saw Sicilian fishermen who rescued migrants at sea charged by police and temporarily lose their fishing vessels and their means to make a living.

While the journey has been more or less the same over the ages, the reasons for which people cross the Mediterranean are many and diverse. There are Syrian refugees who can afford the trip to Europe, Tunisian teenagers who have jumped at the first opportunity to seek work, and others who are fleeing famine or violence. European immigration authorities try to distinguish among those coming to grant asylum to some, in compliance with international law, while keeping as many as possible outside the borders of Europe.

The growth of migration across the Mediterranean, legal or otherwise, attests to both the historic difficulty of sealing this narrow sea, with its narrow straits and thousands of kilometres of accessible shores, and to a pressing need for a lot of people to get to the other side, which is met by those who have boats and the will to put so many lives at risk for profit.

What eventually happened to the migrants who came on these boats is unknown, some must have reached their final destination while others are still detained, or might even have been repatriated, possibly to try another time. However, the boats lining up on the shores of Sicily can attest only to those who made it safely to shore, while the stories of those who weren't so fortunate are lost at the bottom of the Mediterranean, alongside the wrecks of thousands of boats exactly like these.

October 2013