Yesterday a boat charged with around 500 people took fire a few miles off the coast of Lampedusa, a beautiful Sicilian island sitting only 70 miles north of the African coast. The Italian forces recovered so far over 100 bodies and they think 200 more are still at sea.
It was the middle of the night when someone ignited the corner of a blanket on the boat, hoping to be seen and rescued by passing fishermen. It was a matter of minutes before the whole ship started to burn and capsized. Hundreds of people jumped in the water, most of them unable to swim.
A few days ago a dozen illegal immigrants died on a Sicilian beach, thrown in the water off the coast by the same reckless middlemen who extorted them thousands of euros with the promise of delivering the chance to a better future.
Watching the images of the aligned bodies on the beach I was overwhelmed by sadness.
I spend so much time dissecting all the possible nuances of expatriation. I write of being lost in translation and of the perks of being a foreigner, I have lyrical moments thinking of my birth country and others of mere exasperation. And I do all of this from my comfy home, sitting in front of my cute laptop, sipping russian tea and eating organic dried fruits.
At the same time, thousands of people across the world share some of my dreams of cutting the cord, see the world, get a better chance, build a future, give children a different education. Only, they are fleeing wars, famine, persecutions, lack of any fundamental human right. They don’t have the time – or the opportunity – to think about expatriation. They just gather all of the money they can think of and jump on a boat.
I am aware that by doing so, they are breaking the law. At the same time I can’t but feel compassion, and sympathy for them. Had I grown up dealing with daily survival, I would jump on that boat too. Crossing my fingers, hoping for the best and telling myself that anything is better that rotting in a world deprived of freedom and humanity.
My thoughts today are for the other expats. Those we will never cross in airports’ lounges, coffee shops or colonial hotels. The expats that don’t know about visas or working permits or the difficulties they will have to face, should they reach the other side of the border. The expats that just dream of a better tomorrow, and are ready to risk their life to have the chance to see it.
They are not different from those who travelled for hours in the trunk of a car or under a bus seat to escape oppression and dictators after WWII. Who fled war and racial persecution by walking nights and days in the snow, crossing mountains. Who defied armed and ruthless wardens to escape from a concentration camp. Who hid in impossibly small suitcases to conquer freedom.
It’s thanks to those brave, amazingly strong men and women that other oppressed human beings kept faith, and continued to dream. May there be a day when no one will have to die hoping for a rosier future.