North African Refugees Flee to Lampedusa


Since the start of the revolutions in northern Africa at the beginning of 2011 more than 30,000 people have arrived on the tiny island of Lampedusa in the Mediterranean Sea. In January and February most people came from Tunisia after riots in their country. Most recently more and more have come on fishing boats and risked their lives in order to escape the regime of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. Despite the dangers of the 200 km long journey thousands more are expected to arrive as long as civil war goes on in Northern Africa.

Among the passengers are children, babies and pregnant women. Because of the rocky shores of Lampedusa there are not many safe places for the boats to land. Italian rescue teams wait near the shore in order to help them off their boats. Italian officials say rescue operations are very dangerous because most boats are overcrowded.


Such boats often have no navigation, so that the migrants have no idea of where they are going. Sometimes they jump into the rough sea and swim to shore as soon as they see land. Not all of them make it and many die. Once on land the refugees are taken to a shelter on the island. They throw away their belongings and documents before they reach the shore because they want to seek asylum in Europe.


The rising number of refugees has led the European Union to take action and to provide more help for Italian authorities on the island. One of the main problems is that the tiny Mediterranean island is not prepared for such an onslaught of refugees. They lack shelters and infrastructure to provide food and other basics for the migrants. Every day the Italian government is transferring people from the overcrowded island to shelters on the mainland so that they have room for new refugees.


Refugees seeking asylum in Lampedusa

Refugees seeking asylum in Lampedusa - Vito Manzari 


Related Topics


  • authority = people in high positions in a country or organization
  • basics = the things that you need to survive, like food or clothes
  • belonging = the clothes and other personal things you have with you
  • civil war = two groups fight against each other in the same country
  • despite = even though
  • escape = to get away from
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • infrastructure = roads, hospitals, schools and other important buildings
  • lack = do not have enough of
  • mainland = the part of Italy that’s is connected to Europe, not the islands
  • make it = here: get there
  • migrant = a person who leaves his home country and goes to another country
  • navigation = instruments that show you in which direction you are going
  • onslaught = here: many people arrive unexpectedly
  • overcrowded = too many people in an area
  • pregnant = to expect a baby
  • provide = give
  • reach = get to
  • recently = in the last few weeks or months
  • refugee = someone who has to leave their country because of a war or for other political or religious reasons
  • regime = a government that most of the people do not like and which is often not fairly elected
  • rescue = to save someone in a dangerous situation
  • riot = fighting between groups of people
  • rocky = full of stones and rocks
  • rough = not smooth, violent, with high waves
  • seek asylum = if you ask another country to allow you to live there because you are in danger in your home country
  • shelter = a place to live and sleep
  • shore = coastline, where land meets water
  • take action = do something
  • tiny = very small