Lampedusa honoured for its role in maintaining the dignity of migrants fleeing violence

Published: 10 February 2015 10:56 CET

By Laura Bastianetto, Italian Red Cross

On 6 February 2015, the Italian Red Cross awarded the people of Lampedusa its Gold Medal of Merit in honour of their generosity, humanity and respect for those fleeing violence and despair across the Mediterranean sea.

The ceremony, held in Piazza Garibaldi, saw the people of Lampedusa come together with volunteers from the new local Italian Red Cross branch and local schools. Over the next weeks, schools will be taking part in projects which highlight the importance of the Movement’s seven Fundamental Principles. Francesco Rocca, President of the Italian Red Cross, said the people on the island had shown through their actions that the principles of the Red Cross were having an impact on lives and livelihoods every day. "Lampedusa is unfortunately a symbol of suffering – We don't forget the last shipwreck in 2013 – but for us it is a symbol of great humanity and the strong tradition of hospitality. With this Gold medal of Merit we wanted to recognize the effort and generosity that the people of Lampedusa have always shown towards those fleeing war and famine,” he said.

In 2014, over 3,000 people died while attempting to reach Europe, often travelling in unsafe boats with the assistance of people traffickers. An estimated 150,000 attempted the perilous crossing last year, the vast majority landing in Italy.

Sue Lemesurier, Global Advisor for migration at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said the dignity and rights of migrants had become increasingly important as more people sought safety from violence or persecution at home. “Migrants will continue to arrive at international borders for multiple reasons and with different vulnerabilities. They should always be treated with humanity, regardless of their legal status. People fleeing conflict and persecution must have access to fair asylum and humanitarian protection procedures,” she said. “We, the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement – in partnership with others – need to do more to ensure safe journeys, and we need to do more to ensure safe arrivals of all migrants not only on the Mediterranean Sea but globally along the migration journey and at international borders.”

The Medal of Merit recognizes the work communities had undertaken on the island to ease the suffering of others without prejudice.