Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

Letter from Europe

  • — Issue 2008/18 posted by hidden europe on

It has been a busy couple of days in the choppy seas off the south coast of Malta. Military helicopters were out in the early hours of Thursday morning searching for over two dozen migrants from Africa whose boat capsized about forty kilometres south of the Mediterranean island. Later the same day another vessel, overladen and leaking, was escorted into Marsaxlokk Harbour in Malta. The twenty-seven Somalis aboard were all taken in custody.

article summary —

Dear fellow travellers

hidden europe 21

hidden europe 21 is published this coming Friday (4 July). We report from Kaliningrad, Russia's Baltic exclave, and have articles on Moldova, a Spanish market and a town on the frontier between Latvia and Estonia. In our regular flight scan column, we look at scheduled helicopter services around Europe. And we meet Tareke, a refugee from Africa, who has a sharp perspective on Maltese hospitality. Read more of Tareke's story in the second item of this newsletter.

We also report in hidden europe 21 on the remarkable renaissance of the River Thames in London, which is increasingly valued as a low carbon highway through the heart of the capital. The river downstream from Tower Bridge has reinvented itself. For too long London's riverfront through the docklands was not much cherished. "Dark and impenetrable at night, like the face of a forest, is the London waterside," wrote Joseph Conrad in The Mirror of the Sea (1906). But all has changed, and courtesy of the commuter boat services that now provide high frequency services into the city, the Thames has become Europe's most living river.

Please take a look at the full table of contents for the July 2008 issue of hidden europe. The full text of selected articles can be read on our website. But of course we would far prefer that you buy the magazine. That's easy. Just place your order online, and for a very modest outlay, you can have hidden europe delivered to your front door.

Maltese arrivals

It has been a busy couple of days in the choppy seas off the south coast of Malta. Military helicopters were out in the early hours of Thursday morning searching for over two dozen migrants from Africa whose boat capsized about forty kilometres south of the Mediterranean island. Later the same day another vessel, overladen and leaking, was escorted into Marsaxlokk Harbour in Malta. The twenty-seven Somalis aboard were all taken in custody: a typical Maltese reception for migrants who find themselves shipwrecked on Maltese shores. St Paul should be grateful that he was welcomed ashore with such warm hospitality when he was shipwrecked in Malta.

"Malta finds itself on the very front line of the border between Europe and Africa," Lawrence Gonzi is fond of saying. Gonzi is prime minister of the island nation that each year plays unwilling host to migrants from Africa. For the bureaucrats tucked away in government offices in Floriana in Malta, the boat people are statistics in the battle with Brussels to secure some sharing of the refugee burden. Malta, Italy and Spain are the points of arrival and all three countries argue that their European Union partners should be doing more to help.

Yet the men, women and children whose first European experience is life in a Maltese refugee camp are more than just statistics. They are men like Tareke who travelled for four years to reach Malta from Eritrea. "My brother died in the desert," he explains. "We were abandoned by the truck driver." Robbed several times en route, exploited by unscrupulous traffickers, beaten in a Libyan prison, Tareke eventually reached Malta where he was detained for entering the country without permission.

We meet Tareke in the July issue of hidden europe, and find out something of how the Maltese government works with voluntary agencies like the Jesuit Refugee Service to accommodate migrants from Africa. It is the other side of life on an island that has its arms open to welcome affluent summer visitors from northern Europe.

Nicky Gardner and Susanne Kries
(editors, hidden europe magazine)

This article was published in Letter from Europe.

About The Authors

hidden europe

and Susanne Kries manage hidden europe, a Berlin-based editorial bureau that supplies text and images to media across Europe. Together they edit hidden europe magazine. Nicky and Susanne are dedicated slow travellers. They delight in discovering the exotic in the everyday.