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Porta d'Europa
(Europe's Gate)

 Lampedusa and the refugees

a production by Roman Herzog (2005)

 a radio documentary of 57 minutes

download or listen to the first part [mp3]

(the audio-quality in download is reduced)

If you’d like to receive a CD copy of Porta d'Europa mail to

The Island of Lampedusa is a handful of rocks, large less than twenty square kilometres, further Europe's coast than Africa’s. In origin a town of fishermen it has become a tourist resort.

As effect of the new European immigration politics that since the 1990'es restrict and deny the possibilities of legal entry, the island of Lampedusa has become one of the main arrival points of the so called “clandestini”, the "illegal" immigrants. In the summer months they arrive almost daily, women, men and children who departed from Libya or Tunisia and risked their lives trying to cross the sea. This illegal traffic of people has become an international business, which is a profit for many, with exception of the refugees.

The Ethiopian Dico Benti Debelar and Mahmoud Mizibor from Bangladesh arrived as “clandestini” in Lampedusa. In this documentary they tell the stories of their escape from their home countries and their dramatic crossing of the sea to arrive at "La Porta d’Europa", Europe’s gate, and their unhuman suffering in the refugee camp of Lampedusa, the so called CPT, the Italian Centre of Temporary Permanence, a sort of black hole where nobody gets inside, “even if it would be the general secretary of the UN”, as an interviewed partner points out. Meanwhile military forces declare openly in the documentary their practices of diversion, of turning back the immigrants to their harbours of departure in the international waters.

Every year in summer the emergency due to overcrowding of the camp in Lampedusa returns constantly, notwithstanding the great number of military and police forces which are implied in Europe’s “defence” against the refugees. It’s such a predictable emergency to suggest that the whole issue is not only tolerated but encouraged, as some interviewed partners are willing to declare.

And the residents of Lampedusa? Some of them just want to deny the access to the island to any refugee, others wish for a different immigration policy from the European Community.

But in the meantime the fishermen of the island keep on finding the corpses of those refugees who didn’t reach the island and found their tragic end in the sea.

The documentary has a duration of 57 minutes.

Europe's Gate received the special mention by the jury of the 2006  Anello Debole Award, being a "complete and well made reportage which lets emerge the complexity of the "clandestine" phenomenon, especially the social reactions towards it".

If you’d like to receive a CD copy of Porta d'Europa mail to


  Porta d'Europa (2005)

a radio documentary directed and produced
Roman Herzog

with the voices of:
Benti Debelar Dico, Mahmoud Mizibor, the actress Veronica D’Agostino, the activist of the Lega Nord Angela Maraventano, the cultural office head of Lampedusa Enzo Cantafia, the governor of Lampedusa Bruno Siragusa, the ex-governor Salvatore Martello, Jörg Golze and Detlef Linz who work in the airport, some teachers of the island, tourists, the butcher Filippo, the mason Carmelo, the fishermen Pasquale, Reste and Salvatore, the Pakistani Ali, Father Lilo, the commander in chief of the boarder military police Romeo Cavalin, the vice-commander of the harbor’s office Giuseppe La Biunda, the responsible of the CPT Giuseppe Dimenica and the lawyer Fulvio Vassallo.

  Useful links:

Amnesty International - Italia

ASGI - Associazione Studi Giuridici sull'Immigrazione

The beach of Lampedusa