Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The War Next Door (Part 6)

Since our last post on the Libyan conflict, the rebels have moved westward - though faced with the occasional obstacle - and today (Wednesday) NATO is officially taking control of the no-fly zone and other military operations. This may eventually include supplying arms to the rebels. The head of one rebel faction has met with the American secretary of state.

Refugees continue to arrive in Italy, especially in Lampedusa in the Sicilian Channel (that's Lampedusa's coat of arms, the Tomasi family's leopard on a red field). Most of the refugees are Libyan but some are Tunisians claiming to be Libyans. On Monday the Lampedusans protested the presence of over six thousand refugees on their rather small island. That means that there are now as many refugees as there are permanent residents. In response, the government promises to transfer most of these guests to other parts of Italy, including Sicily, and that announcement provoked outrage from other Italians.

But aren't Italians famous for our hospitality? Yes, if it's a cup of coffee or a plate of pasta offered to a visitor - less so when it's a large refugee camp a kilometre from our home. Until about fifteen years ago, Italy had very few immigrants to speak of. Right now, these North African visitors are the greatest challenge to Italy resulting from the Libyan situation.

That said, driving around Sicily, you'd never imagine that a military conflict is raging in northern Africa just a few hundred kilometres away.

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