Alarm Phone: Mussie Zerai

THE NEW YORKER

The Anchor

The Africans who risk all to reach Europe look to an exiled priest as their savior.

Letter from Lampedusa

By

„[…] Around 9 A.M. on October 3rd, Father Mussie Zerai’s telephone began to ring repeatedly. Outside his apartment at the Catholic diocese in Fribourg, Switzerland, the Alps rose above the red-tiled roofs and the Gothic cathedral of the medieval town. The phone calls came from Sweden, Norway, Eritrea, Italy, Sudan, and Lampedusa. A boat travelling from Libya had caught fire and sunk. At least a hundred and eleven people were dead and more than two hundred were missing. It was depressingly familiar news—in the past twenty years, more than twenty thousand immigrants have died on their way to Europe. There would be many more were it not for Zerai, a thirty-nine-year-old Eritrean exile, whose phone number circulates among Europe-bound Africans like a Mediterranean 911. […]“