Today I watched from my little Florentine backyard as a woman my age walked off a boat and into handcuffs for guiding refugees into a port of a little Italian island called Lampedusa. She had found them in the water while working for a German non-profit called Sea-Watch. She and her crew pulled them away from the sea, from drowning, brought them on board, onto safe, buoyant surfaces instead of a sinking rubber dinghy. She took them into her care, as they fled torture, pain, places they maybe grew up in, but aren’t the same places that they used to know. The new government in Italy is trying to stop the immigrants. They’re closing down ports of entry, creating laws that make it illegal to reach down into the sea that has drowned so many hopeful, scared souls and pull out the survivors. She’s my age. She broke the law.
Italy told her she couldn’t bring the forty or so humans to port. Italy said they wanted the rest of the EU to take the refugees. We’re full. I agree. Sometimes.
I agree other countries should take refugees, but I also agree with Carola Rackete. Going further would bring more pain to these people. She had to dock. She had to save them, so she offered up herself. Italian men screamed into the morning on an island so overwhelmed with the problems of the entire world. They hurled insults to this woman as she hugged the other men and women that she had finally brought to dry land. They acted like monkeys. They forgot. But she never forgot, and as she was put into that police car, with her dreadlocks tied as tight as her inconceivable strength against the leaders of this world, I hope she won’t be forgotten.
She’s my age, and she didn’t do the “legal” thing. She did the right thing. Now the EU has to do the right thing and figure out how to handle this crisis that isn’t as bad as it was in 2014, but it’s still a crisis. Now the UN has to do the right thing and stop ignoring these impossible situations to claim refugee status. If the ports are closed, it doesn’t mean less drown. If there’s no food it doesn’t mean you won’t stop being hungry. If there’s no escape it doesn’t mean you’ll turn back toward the danger you’ve run from.
The organizations like the SeaWatch shouldn’t exist, but I am so happy they do -and I can only hope that someday we won’t need them. Until then, if you want to donate to people that actually help the world, think about making a donation on their website.