Several Palestinian-Syrian refugees are two days into a hunger strike in protest over not being allowed to leave the migrant reception centre on the Italian island of Lampedusa. Here since October, they complain that others who arrived after them have been able to move on. Saying they were former militia soldiers, they preferred to remain anonymous when they voiced their frustrations.
One of them said: “Hunger strike, just some water, some things to live.”
Another told us: “For me and my friends: from here to a good future, or from here to the hospital or die; or let us back to Arabian country with our boats. Because, I am sorry, the European Union lies about the talking, about helping Syrians, helping Palestinians. They must be responsible about their words.”
The usual stay for hard-pressed migrants here is supposed to be no more than three days, though many stay for 20 days or more. The mostly Syrians and Eritreans object to sharing sleeping quarters.
Another Palestinian refugee from Syria said: “I support the strike because people here have rights. Some have been here since mid-October and want to leave, because the situation is not convenient. We can’t stay for more than three or four days.”
A staff of 65 run the centre. It was designed to hold 250 migrants. Shortly after our visit, 100 left and 440 remained. There are 15 toilets.
The centre’s director Antonio Miragliotta said: “We have psychologists, social workers and cultural mediators here, whose job it is to calm tensions that inevitably arise in a centre like Lampedusa, where immigrants wait for the swiftest possible transfer.”
The migrants are given a change of clothes every four days, receive three meals per day, a 15-euro phone card and some cigarettes. Not many use the volleyball court. There’s no TV. Some activity is laid on for children, and volunteers give language lessons.
The Palestinians from Syria mostly want to go to the Scandinavian countries.