This is another story about the Spanish fireman Miguel Roldán who faces 20 years in prison because Italian authorities have accused him of aiding human traffickers after he helped save thousands of African refugees from drowning in the Mediterranean.

Most African refugees try to make it to the island of Lampedusa in the Mediterranean (part of Sicily) where there is an immigrant intake shelter. There have been several protests by refugees at the shelter since the management company that runs it for the Italian government engages in abusive practices, including squalid, dangerous, overcrowded living conditions. Over the past 20 years, an estimated 400,000 people have crossed the sea from Libya to Lampedusa. Some estimate that 15,00 have died trying. Other estimates are well over 25,000 but no one knows for sure because African lives don’t matter; there is no monitoring agency that counts the number who board ships & the number who land safely.

In 2013 there was a notorious incident where the Italian Coast Guard allowed 366 refugees to drown just off the coast of the island while fishermen attempted to save them. The woman mayor of Lampedusa & most of the 6,000 residents vociferously disagree with Italian government policy & volunteer food, blankets, medical care, sleeping space to refugees. In a 2012 open letter to the EU protesting its refugee policies, Lampedusa mayor Giusi Nicolini said, “If these dead are only ours, then I want to receive telegrams of condolences after every drowned person I receive. As if he had white skin, as if he were our son drowned during a holiday.”

Many search & rescue operations port in Lampedusa & local fishermen continue to rescue refugees off the coast. Under current Italian government & EU policy, they could be charged, like Miguel Roldán, with human trafficking.

(Photo is Miguel Roldán by Paco Puentes)