28 Sep 2023  |   05:50am IST

Lampedusa in Goa

Thankfully Goa is safe at the moment, but the dynamics changed overnight in the Italian island of Lampedusa. One fine September day, 120 ships arrived on this tiny island within the span of 24 hours with 7,000 migrants from different African nations
Lampedusa in Goa

Plastino D’Costa

It’s always a pleasant feeling when your position gets vindicated, but not in this case and frankly not in such quick time. Just two months ago this writer wrote in this same newspaper a piece describing an imaginary (O Heraldo ‘Testing Goa Governor’s hospitality’ July 27, 2023) scenario of how the Goa Governor after inviting Goans to spend time at his palatial official home, realizes that it is an absolutely ridiculous idea. The Goa Governor has the best real estate to live and also a big heart to invite everyone, but the residence is meant for a certain amount of people to inhabit. The place loses its essence once that number of people keeps increasing. This scenario was compared with our tiny beloved Goa. 

So what has come true from this two month old piece? Thankfully Goa is safe at the moment, but the dynamics have changed overnight in a faraway Italian island of Lampedusa in the Mediterranean Sea. With an area of only 20 square kilometers the closest Italian island of Sicily is around 205 kilometers while countries such as Tunisia and Malta are much closer to it. Its population is approximately 6,000 people. Its economy runs on fishing, tourism and agriculture. But on one fine September day, this month 120 ships arrived on this tiny island within the span of 24 hours with 7,000 migrants from different African nations. Imagine the horror of the local people when they found out they have been outnumbered overnight, no less than a tsunami. 

For Lampedusa, this is not some bolt from the blue, it has experience in handling migrants on their island. It even has a processing centre which processes around 400 migrants per day before they are distributed to Europe, but not in their wildest dream did they expect 7000 in a single day. So who drops these migrants here, according to media reports smugglers charge around Euros 800 per person for this dangerous mission. Lampedusa has a history of refugees trying to come to Europe through this island that it even has a door frame installed which symbolizes the gateway to Europe and to remind that this mission is no cakewalk, it has a wooden cross made of sunk migrant boats in the memory of those who could not make it. 

How did 120 ships escape the Italian Navy and make way through the Italian waters to arrive on one single day. That question needs to be addressed by the Italian prime-minister Giorgia Meloni, who while busy giggling at the G20 in Delhi, almost gave a free pass to the smugglers to plan an onslaught similar to an invasion of the country. Thankfully they are just helpless migrants and not some soldiers from an enemy nation. The European Union has visited the island, deciding to distribute the migrants to different European countries bringing some relief to Meloni.  

But the fact that the onslaught of migration has not stopped in Lampedusa, even after the initial shock of 7000 on the first day, raises the suspicion that the European governments might have given consent for this migration to take place by allowing the smuggling networks to operate without meeting any resistance. Otherwise, how is it possible that 120 ships come on one day and the Italian Navy does not even intercept even one?  

Democracy these days is in despair world over, Governments when fix on taking unpopular decisions usually give tacit understanding to non state actors to start activities that serves their grand scheme of things. It is highly possible that Europe has realized that their population numbers are dwindling and under stress, and they need able bodied men to carry on their activities. By the way Governments also are more coordinated these days in their approach; that possibly explains why suddenly borders across the United States of America have become surprisingly porous. Apparently Texas is in a new mess with migrants coming from everywhere. What’s the old mess? --San Francisco where law and order is one big puzzle. If rumors are to be believed, law and order situation is intentionally brought to the brink so as to have a negative impact on the real estate market so that prices remain low for the chosen people to make an entry at the time of their choosing. 

The point is most citizens think voting is the only democratic activity they ought to take part in order to save democracy. Little do they realize that once elected there are many moving parts that makes it difficult for the average Joe to connect the dots. But the privileged political class knows exactly how things are supposed to play out and what is the end game. It is time for the citizens of the western democracies to ask the inconvenient questions. Handling migrants is the most humane thing to do for countries that have resources, agreed, but keeping the local people in the dark and taking decisions in a opaque manner is nothing less than trickery. 

Lampedusa nightmare has been playing out in Goa, but in a more calibrated manner and yes there is a European connection to it, Goans with the help of the Portuguese Passport have flocked mostly to the United Kingdom thereby emptying Goa. One thing is certain Goa is not going to stay empty perpetually. Already there has been a steady flow of migrants taking over most villages. The ones staying in Goa have absolutely no idea what is in store for them. Maybe a Lampedusa situation is lurking someday in Goa? Our sucking up attitude towards politicians means we have lost the right to question their intentions. Managing democratic countries in a secretive fashion is not going to go well with citizens of countries in Europe and the USA. They know their rights and they don’t suck up. They are eventually going to connect the dots pretty soon. Goa can only keep their eyes and ears open from this world situation. We are in for a much worse roller coaster.

(The author is a business consultant)


Iddhar Udhar