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The price of the promised land

October 24, 2011

I once spent a summer in Livorno, Italy. We spent every free afternoon at the beach out of town, and we returned home every day by the same bus-the last bus at 7 pm that leads back to town. The funny thing was-me and my friends were the only ones who didn’t come back from a long day’s work. And we were the only white people as well.

So there we were, crammed between their huge bags filled with 5 euro “Guci” sunglasses, and 10 euro “Luis Vuiton” handbags, towers of hats and caps, plastic watches, children’s flip-flops and everything else imaginable that one could use on a beach. And there they were, happily chatting away in their own, for me completely unknown, never before heard, language, full of clicks and sounds that seemed almost made up to me. Their feet scorched from walking through the burning hot sand all day, their palms a pinkish color, and their eyes, the whitest eyes I have ever seen in my life, against that coal colored skin. All of them dressed in rags, similar to the ones they are selling. All of them looking exactly the same, wearing the same flip-flops, speaking that same made-up language, with the same eerie white eyes. One of them offered me a seat. I think he couldn’t have been more than 17-18, but it’s hard to tell.

I’ve heard it from someone that they spend their time back at home trying to collect the 10.000 euro-the sum that guarantees them a spot on the boat across the Mediterranean sea. Once they reach Italian waters, it’s every man for himself. I’ve also heard that the Italian authorities have the right to shoot and sink every vessel that they don’t want in their waters, especially if suspected of carrying illegal immigrants. Whoever ends up drowning has only himself to blame. I wonder if it’s true.

So, 10.000 euro for a chance to live in a place where people consider you unwanted or, at the very best-invisible. 10.000 euro and a risk of drowning just at the coast of “promised land”, so you can remain forever “an alien”. 10.000 euro for the privilege of selling trinkets to uninterested tourists on a 40C day. Well, at least until they deport them back to wherever they came from.

One can’t help but wonder-what it must be like back there and what it is that they’ve escaped from?

In case you wish to some some actual facts on this topic, I’ve selected a couple of useful links for you:

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