The Human Cargo
On 8 August 1991, an Albanian ship carrying 20,000 people reached the port of Bari. The ship was called the “Vlora”. Mooring was difficult, and some of the passengers jumped overboard to swim to land, while many others chanted “Italia, Italia”, making the victory sign. On 7 August 1991, the ship, returning from Cuba, the “Vlora” had arrived at the port of Durrës with 10,000 tons of sugar in its hold. Work on unloading the sugar was underway when an enormous throng of thousands of people suddenly assailed the ship, forcing the captain to head for Italy. The next morning, waiting for the “Vlora” was an incredulous and stunned city and an empty football stadium where the Albanians were held before being sent back home. Twenty-one years have passed since that day. Most of the people who boarded that ship were sent back to Albania, but the crossings continued and many of them had another go. Today, 4.5 million foreigners live in Italy.