Ariana Reguzzoni (left) graduated from U.C. Berkeley Graduate
School of Journalism and has worked in film and television in the
Bay Area and New York City. Reguzzoni currently works at Northern
Light Productions, a documentary company in Boston. Diana Ferrero
(right) is a native of Rome, Italy. She came to the United States on
a Fulbright scholarship in 2003 and graduated from the Berkeley
journalism school in 2005. She currently works for Al Jazeera
International in Washington, D.C.
On the surface, the small Sicilian island of Lampedusa, perched
off the coast of North Africa, is like any other Mediterranean
tourist spot, dotted with colorful fishing villages and glorious
stretches of white sand. But as this FRONTLINE/World Fellows
report reveals, while the tourists relax, Lampedusa's coast guard is
busy patrolling the waters around the island, where hundreds of men,
women and children arrive almost daily, crammed inside barely
seaworthy boats. Arriving exhausted and dehydrated after several
days on open seas, these migrants hope they will find a better life
on European soil.
In a scene that unfolds most nights during the summer and fall at
Lampedusa's pier, teams from Doctors Without Borders treat the most
needy coming ashore and the human cargo is then ushered to a holding
center, where a controversial asylum process begins.
Almost all of those who reach the island start their journey
somewhere in Africa. Escaping either conflict or poverty, those who
can afford it pay a local trafficker, then often spend months
traveling by foot across the Sahara Desert to reach the Libyan
coast, from where they make the final passage to Lampedusa.
With increasing numbers of undocumented migrants finding their
way to Europe this way, illegal immigration has moved up on the
European Union's agenda. This July, ministers from 58 African and
European nations met in Morocco to discuss how to tackle the
problem. Among the measures floated were pumping more aid into
Africa's poorest countries, conducting educational campaigns to warn
migrants of the perils of such a journey and cracking down on the
organized crime behind the trafficking trade, much of which is
centered in Libya. Experts predict that this growing exodus from
Africa is ready to explode into a new global Diaspora. But African
nations have little incentive to stop the flow, with an estimated $8
billion having already made its way back into their ailing economies
from Africans working abroad.
Leaving aside the statistics and the politics of illegal
immigration, reporters Ariana Reguzzoni and Italy native Diana
Ferrero give us an unsettling glimpse into life for many new
immigrants -- lives that are lived mostly in the shadows of their
adopted country. For many they speak to, there's a palpable sadness
-- even regret -- over the decision to come to Europe. The reality
rarely lives up to the dream, and the sacrifices they made are
rarely offset by their new life.
Hermon, a soft-spoken 19-year-old from Eritrea, who works as a
maid, describes how even her mother didn't know she planned to
leave. "She wouldn't have let me go," she says. "She would have
said, 'You will die in the sea.'"
She tells Ferrero that to stay in Eritrea would almost certainly
mean being recruited into Eritrea's army to fight a protracted
border war with Ethiopia. To avoid conscription, girls have three
choices, she says. They can get married very young, commit suicide
or flee the country. Hermon chose to flee.
Many scenes in the story expose just how divided and complex the
issue of illegal immigration has become, from distressing images at
sea, where the coast guard does its best to rescue overcrowded
vessels and save lives, to the E.U. politicians who arrive to
inspect the island's holding facility. Depending on a delegate's
political leanings, the facility is either a place of dignity or a
place of national shame.
One of the most revealing moments is meeting Asmerom, another shy
young Eritrean. He has been on the island for a year. Leaning in the
doorway of the hotel restaurant where he works, he listens quietly
as the Italian family who hired him talk about his presence in their
lives. "I personally have nothing against them," says the son. "He
thinks of his family, he cries. Anyway, he works and tries to move
forward. He is well treated; sometimes he even eats with us. He can
tell you the same. He is like a brother for us."
It's an affectionate but awkward moment, laced with a discomfort
that much of Europe feels as it continues to struggle with how best
to deal with the immigrants arriving on its shores.
Senior Interactive Producer
About FRONTLINE/World Fellows
"Italy: One-Way Ticket to
Europe" by Ariana Reguzzoni and Diana Ferrero is the latest
multimedia production of the FRONTLINE/World
Fellows program, sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation of
New York. It is part of our ongoing effort to identify and mentor
the next generation of video, print and online journalists.
Our immigration story from Italy is the latest in our current
round of Fellows reports, which began in December 2005 with "Brazil: Cutting the Wire" and continued in January
2006 with "Colombia: The Coca-Cola Controversy," and in April
with "Japan and China: The Unforgotten War." Two other
Fellows projects on Uganda and Pakistan will appear in coming
months. Our Fellows program started in 2003 and so far has produced
18 multimedia stories by talented young journalists, who have
traveled to Guatemala, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Haiti, Venezuela, Peru,
Mexico, Egypt, Israel, Rwanda and Sicily, and journeyed across
Europe by train from Istanbul to Paris. You can see them all here.
Earlier this year, we solicited proposals for a new round of
Fellows through our parthership with the U.C. Berkeley, Columbia and
Northwestern Graduate Schools of Journalism. We are pleased to
announce that the next season of Fellows projects have been selected
and the recipients will be reporting stories from Liberia, China,
Russia and France, among other countries.