For the world refugee day, we met Mereme, an Albanian girl grown in Italy. She works as an operator in a refugee centre in Italy, and we thought about an interview with her to ask something.
1- Talk about you. How long are you working in a refugee centre?
I have been working in a migrant reception system in Italy since the 1st of April 2019.
2- How does working in a centre where languages, cultures, and histories intertwine to create a heterogeneous and diverse community?
I love my work because I relate to a lot of diversity: cultural, ethnic or especially individual and personal. This job became for me also my mission. Looking and putting together all these characteristics it’s not simple, mainly because in Italy, we continue to fight against this barrier named racism. My job touches me first-hand because I’m an ex-refugee’s daughter, so I have the chance to see it with different eyes and, first of all, as a significant enrichment. The enhancement is not only for people who work whit but also for society, community, basically for all.
3- You have the opportunity to know a lot of different stories. What do they force to experience boys and girls before coming to Italy?
The issue is very delicate. A few months ago, our hosts came mainly from Africa. Their path to come here to Italy is long and hard. They leave their village to stop in Libya, about which we don’t know so much information. What I could understand during these years is that for women is very tough and traumatic because they are generally victims of trafficking. For boys, the trip is challenging also physically because, in Libya, they have to do hard work to set money apart and pay for a boat to come to Italy. So their travel is traumatic, and when they arrive at the hotspot or in the first reception centre, they have post-traumatic stress due to their experience. They are not usually open to talking about what they suffered because they want to eliminate and put aside that part of their life.
4- What’s the key reason why they decide to escape from their country?
The common reason is war. Most of them are persecuted by their family, the State or politically. What encourages them to come is their risky life in their country.
5- What is the bureaucratic process when they arrive in Italy?
When they leave the boat or after a rescue at sea, they arrive at a first reception centre called CAST or CARA. First of all, they have to authenticate themselves because on the way they haven’t id documents with them. Then, they have to go in front of a Territorial Commission and talk about their story and country’s history and explain why they decided to escape and come here. After, they have to wait until receiving id documents or residence permit. Then, when they solve the bureaucratic part, usually for one year and a half or two, they arrive in the secondary reception centre (where I work), which includes SPRAR and SAI. Here we help them with the inclusion and the integration into the society, finding them a job or an internship and a school where they study, learn the language and graduate. In this way, they could obtain a full-fledged residence permit. All of this happens when, after meeting with Commission, applying for political asylum and so protection. In Italy, three types of protections exist subsidiary, special (for specific cases) and international. African guys usually apply for international protection thanks that they receive from the Italian State id documents, residence permit and travel pass for five years. This is the first praxis that permits them to enter our society as individuals.
6- Today, in Italy, do you think society is well welcoming? How are they integrated?
Italy answers well in some ways about what it be a refugee life. There is usually the stereotype that coloured guys have to do a heavy job. Our centre pays a lot of attention to this thing, we looking for a job that respects their rights, so with deserved hours and a deserved salary, without yielding in caporalato. Our system welcomes them, and today our guys are well included in society. They are refugees, so we talk about some social unrest, but first of all, they are humans and have to be treated as such. Human rights must be in the first place.
7- To end our interview, tell us a word that reflects for you the word refugee.