Walls are more and more frequent at the European and global level in a senseless race to protect ourselves and exclude others. Walls, fences, borders and razor wire – with their illusion of ‘safety’ – are on the rise all over, as if it was enough to pile up bricks, avoiding an uncomfortable reality in an effort to ignore and forget.

The current approach to the migratory phenomenon, with its enormous burden of human suffering, is shaped by selfishness and blindness. We delude ourselves and think we can fix the current humanitarian crisis by withdrawing to our small perimeters and betraying what inspired the European dream.

Nevertheless, history has taught us – or at least we should have learned the lesson – that walls are a mere illusion and those who build walls end up locked inside them.

Those who believe that by defining their own space against others end up in a space that is only bare and empty.

The European Union was inspired by a shared project and values. Today, while walking in European capital cities we can hear different languages, experience many cultures and meet different people of a marvelous variety, all of which represents our own identity.

The same diversity can be found on board the vessels we rescue at sea, on which we meet people from the Horn of Africa and from the Middle East, all with different countries of origin, religions and languages. But all of them have one thing in common: their desperate journey in search of safety.

The beauty of diversity can be found while crossing our cities, and in welcoming those who arrive after hellish journeys with mercy.

We are builders of walls, even invisible walls, even internal ones” Antonio Tabucchi

When I talk to the people rescued during MOAS’ missions, I discover Africa and taste the sweet flavor of many typical dishes through the words of the survivors. I have never seen Damascus, but I have heard the description of its streets many times. I have never seen Aleppo, but women and men have portrayed its beauty for me through their memories and their longing for home.

When I listen to their tales, we hope together that one day we can visit in peace their homes now ravaged by war. The immense value of their stories partially eases the pain of not being able to visit many marvelous cities as they were before war and violence came. Their generosity in sharing their stories reinforces our shared hope for a peaceful future, when the only walls we will build are meant for people who are welcome to come and live inside.

As we share stories, memories and hopes on board the Phoenix, together we imagine walls that will unify and protect people, instead of walls that separate and hurt them.

This article was originally published in Italian.