Francesco Tuccio, a carpenter on this island of less than 8 square miles halfway between Sicily and Tunisia, remembers the day in April of 2009 when his life took on a new purpose, Euronew reports.
Shipwrecks and migrant landings on the coast had already become a daily routine on Lampedusa, which is located in the Mediterranean Sea. That morning, Tuccio decided to close his shop and joined a few dozen volunteers working to recover the bodies of drowned migrants who had washed ashore.
"I remember two boats attempted to enter the port that day: One made it, the other sank. More than 100 people, mostly from Somalia and Eritrea, lost their lives," Tuccio said, his voice breaking with emotion. "What struck me the most was returning home and hearing no news reports even just mentioning the tragedy."
Over the past several years, Lampedusa, with a population of 6,500, has earned the nickname of "door to Europe" as it has become both a major human smugglers' hub and Italy's first port for migrants rescued at sea. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), more than 2,000 people died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea in 2018.