"This is an island for tourists; we are not equipped to deal with a humanitarian crisis," says Claudia Monti, a boutique owner. "There's been so much negative publicity about the immigrants that we worry whether the tourists will come."
Some fear breakouts and riots on a larger, more dangerous scale. "Lampedusa is Europe's frontier and a place of transit – a bridge between the two shores of the Mediterranean," said the island's priest, the Rev. Stefano Nastasi. "We are not insensitive to the suffering ... but we also don't want to be forgotten."
While some migrants earn a precarious living selling fake designer goods on the streets of Rome or working in the factories of Naples and Milan, many others push north, heading for France, Germany, and Britain. No matter how cold the welcome they receive, a new life in Europe is almost always better than the danger and poverty left behind in war-torn countries like Somalia, Sudan, and Chad.
Isaias, an Eritrean, fled his country six years ago and saved enough money to pay smugglers to take him from Libya to Lampedusa. He survived the crossing and eventually was granted a residency permit in Italy. He has since returned to Lampedusa and works in one of the hotels. But even now he struggles to talk about his ordeal.