New charter aims to change perceptions of migration

After 300 Eritrean asylum seekers lost their lives in a disaster at sea, a group of individuals came together to create a pact that aims to change the way we think about migration

The tiny island of Lampedusa in the Mediterranean saw a migration of a different sort on the weekend of 31 January – 2 February, when hundreds of people from Europe and North Africa concerned about the plight of migrants, joined forces to draft the Charter of Lampedusa.

The charter aims to establish a set of rights and freedoms for migrants and affirms that radical overhauls are necessary to combat social inequality and global injustice. It comes in the wake of the recent disaster where 300 Eritreans died when the boat carrying them from Libya caught fire and sank off the coast of Lampedusa. The Italian island, which is 70 miles off the coast of Tunisia, is a key entry point into Europe for migrants from Africa, who often pay traffickers to reach it. Tens of thousands have made the dangerous crossing in recent years, facing impoverished conditions upon arrival at camps across the island.

The new document is the result of months of online debate on the subject of migration, spearheaded by grassroots organisation Melting Pot. The group is deeply concerned about what it believes is an inadequacy of European policy on the issue, and is open to anyone who wishes to join the discussion.

Nicola Grigion from Melting Pot said the group aims to “change this negative perception of migration from the bottom up.” She added: “I don’t think it’s acceptable that someone who escapes from a war has to take a dangerous and unseaworthy boat, putting their life in the hands of traffickers. There has to be a different way.”

The Mayor of Lampedusa, Giusi Nicolini, said she hoped the Charter would lead to a change in the perception of Lampedusa as the ‘Alcatraz of the Mediterranean’.

The charter is currently available in Italian and is being translated into English and other languages.