... in mediterranean

Meanwhile at the border... (one week in Malta)

I think i have mentioned before that I am maintaining a list of reported deaths of immigrants trying to enter the European Union called meanwhile at the border. This is quite a depressing routine that builds on a couple of google news alerts and a number of highly customized rss-feeds. some of the links that i am getting in my inbox do not immediately reveal if the linked pages are indeed news reports concerning drowned/shot/dehydrated migrants which means i get to see a fair amount of websites that contain any possible combination of the words ‘migrants’, ‘dead’, ‘drowned’, ‘illegal’ and so forth while following up on them.

Today i ran into a remarkable feature on the site of maltatoday.com. They have a page that lists this week’s headlines and the current edition of which exists for almost 50% of headlines related to the influx of migrants to the island of Malta:

Sunday, 25 June

Child born on patrol boat

A Somali woman gives birth to a boy on board the Armed Forces patrol boat that goes out to rescue a group of illegal immigrants, including the woman, caught out at sea. The AFM rescues 25 migrants and the mother gives birth to her child the moment she is transferred to the military patrol boat. Both mother and child are reportedly in good health after being transferred to St Luke’s Hospital.[…]

Monday, 26 June […]

Migrants give the slip

Seven migrants are on the run after landing with a group of 27 others at Xghajra in the dead of night. The migrants are noticed during a police patrol in Xghajra and apprehended by the police after a thorough search of the area. Seven Africans, remain on the loose. […]

Tuesday, 27 June

Mass breakout

Almost 400 illegal immigrants escape from the Safi detention centre and attempt to march all the way to Valletta to protest against detention. The mass breakout also turns violent at times with immigrants hurling stones at police officers and soldiers who at times seemed to be overwhelmed. A sizeable group of immigrants gets as far as the roundabout leading to Garibaldi Road in Marsa before being forced back into the centre by the security forces almost two hours later. Several police officers, soldiers and immigrants are slightly injured. Security personnel, called in from all parts of Malta, show great restraint in controlling an extremely tense situation.

266 more migrants

The largest group to date of immigrants is sighted off Malta’s coast after the boat they are on stalls. The 266 immigrants initially refuse the army’s assistance but then are persuaded to board an army patrol boat and brought to shore. The immigrants hail from Morocco and Egypt and are very likely to be repatriated soon.[…]

Thursday, 29 June […]

More migrants arrive

A group of 28 illegal immigrants including three women arrive in Malta aboard a boat. They land at Benghisa in Birzebbuga and are rounded up by the police.

Friday, 30 June […]

48 migrants arrive

Another group of 48 illegal immigrants, all men, arrives in Malta after being brought in by the army to Haywharf. Saturday, 1 July

I guess this pretty much speaks for itself. Also in other news today one migrant was shot and two fell to death while trying to enter Melilla (a.k.a Europe) from Morocco and 21 bodies of sub-saharan migrants washed up on a beach in western Morocco)

Portbou train station

22 Apr 2006 | 382 words | border railways mediterranean coast spain france

Have always been fascinated with border towns. The fact that another national economy with other taxes and other social norms is just across the border/mountain/river/fence tends to have interesting effects on these places, and especially what is for sale in the stores and on the streets. Now my most favorite border town in Europe is Portbou on the border of Spain and France:

The tiny shops in the even more tiny city center have ridiculous amounts of Pastis on sale (for the Frenchmen who live just across the mountains where the tax on booze is much higher) and Portbou is home of my favorite memorial (for Walter Benjamin, who committed suicide in this place when the Spanish did not let him into the country in 1940).

On top of this the place has an absolutely incredible location: crammed into a little bay of the Mediterranean and surrounded by the foothills of the Pyrénées, the place ca only be approaced by the spectacular coastal road that runs from Perpingnan in France south to Girona in Spain and follows the spectacular Mediterranean coast for a good 30km. Portbou is situated in the smallest of the bays along this coast just south of the actual border. Because it is so small the center has a building density that makes one feel as if one was in a much bigger city, an effect that is reinforced by the gigantic propositions of the railway station. Being a border station between Spain and France the railway station needs two sets of tracks (standard gauge for the French trains and broad gauge for the Spanish trains) plus an enormous marshaling yard. The surface of the railway station probably equals the surface of the rest of town.

I have always wanted to explore this railway station, but on my last 2 visits I never had the time. This time i spend about an hour exploring the station which for the biggest part seems to be deserted, with closed deserted waiting rooms that seem to patiently await another emigration or immigration wave. If you ever have the chance to visit Portbou, make sure that you take some time to visit the train station. In the meanwhile i have posted some pictures to my flickr account.

Portbou seen from the train station


Right now i am at the media shed in Southend on Sea (a.k.a.the end of the world) just out of London where mongrel is hosting a launch party for two new projects: Hairy MP’s & Telephone Trottoire. One of the people giving a speech is Yoshitaka Mouri of the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts & Music. He just showed Lampedusa, a disturbingly beautiful project about the ‘two sides’ of the island, by Frederico Baronello & Takuji Togo:

Lampedusa is the southernmost summer resort island of Italy, the border between Europe and Africa. In recent years there has been a massive and constant influx of immigrants who try to illegally enter the country by setting off in small boats from the coast of North Africa. The CPT (Centre for the Immigrants’ First Acceptance) is a detention house next to the airport of Lampedusa. Here, foreigners who have been denied refugee status are sent back to Libya, and arriving tourists are welcomed to visit the island. There is also a space of the island cemetery dedicated to the refugees, many of whom died trying to make the journey across the Mediterranean to Europe.

Check it out here (and make sure you have sound enabled).

Back to Berlin

03 Jun 2005 | 6 words | beirut berlin travel mediterranean

Cornice, Ras Beirut 3 June 2005

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

Other things that i have made online: