The Charter of Lampedusa. Between civil society’s commitment and new hopes for future migration

The Charter of Lampedusa, a document aiming to rewrite the political geography in the Mediterranean area, has been approved on February 2nd 2014 after the terrible tragedies of October 3rd and 11th 2013, off Lampedusa Island.

From January 31st to February 2nd, dozens of associations, movements, networks and organizations for a total of 300 hundred people from Italian and international poles, have met in Lampedusa to write and approve the Charter of Lampedusa. A new hope has been given to that part of the Mediterranean, tomb of souls and hopes. It represents an unprecedented bottom-up beginning that has as priority the people, their dignity, and their wishes.

The choice of the little Sicilian Island as the place to meet, discuss and approve the documents, came from the fact that it has always represented the borderline between the South and the North of the world, the hopeful and cursed door of Europe, and it has been too many times the protagonist of uncountable tragedies. In those meeting days the Lampedusa Airport has been the focal point of this process, as to symbolize a new departure, a new start.

“The Charter of Lampedusa is based on the recognition that everyone, as human being, inhabit the earth as a shared space and that this common membership must be respected. The differences must be considered an asset and a source of new opportunities and never exploited to build barriers[1]”.

This Charter represents a great starting point to regulate the migratory flows and to give a more political, rather than military approach to the design of a new political geography. It is an incredibly positive step towards a more human attitude because the Charter focuses mainly on people. This process has shown the existence of a strong and committed civil society, capable of creating an important document thought and realized from the bottom.

The Charter is divided in two main parts. The first one is focused on the fundamental principles, as the freedom of movement, the freedom of choice and the freedom to stay. The second one, instead, gives new lymph to the possibilities that might be validated to better tackle with this significant issue, too often characterized by discrimination, violations, and exploitation. Moreover, the latter also introduces important issue like the demilitarisation of borders and the right to asylum.

A long and deep debate between associations, networks, journalists and jurists has given life to this Chart that does not represent a proposal of law, but “a right born from the bottom”[2]. The association Melting Pot Europa, the project’s creator, has involved more than 70 cities and has organized online assemblies to draft the Charter, using the open source DucuWiki tool of Wikipedia to let everyone read and edit the draft Charter, which has been approved, during the second working day, by all networks and citizens who took part at the Mediterranean Meeting.

There have been many important representatives from different countries, like Australia, Chad, Tunisia, and Germany who have brought their thoughts and ideas, showing that this project goes beyond the Euro-Mediterranean frontiers. Indeed, the idea of this Charter is that of reaffirming also the World Charter of Migrants of Gorée 2011 (Senegal).

Unfortunately, there has been the lack of a strong participation by associations and networks from the other Member States of the European Union. A possible limit could have been the working language, as the conference and the meeting have been held in Italian. Therefore, it represents a common document. Moreover, despite the participation of the migrants in the working days, there hasn’t been a strong representation by them, restricting the “right of self representation” stated also in the Charter.



Master’s degree in International Relations (LUISS “Guido Carli”)



[1] Carta di Lampedusa, page 2. Available in Italian at Last update 28th February 2014. Translation provided by the author.

[2]L’Assemblea approva la Carta di Lampedusa [il nostro racconto]. From Redazione a Sud, 2nd February 2014. Last update 28 February 2014.

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