“My identity will always be that of the migrant”

Diawara B. tells of the futility of his integration efforts in the hostile Italian immigration system – especially in view of the “security decree”.

Diawara B., Palermo 2019 © Minor

“Mi sentivo intrappolato nel primo centro di accoglienza, come un prigioniero. Mi sono sforzato, ho imparato la lingua, sono andato a scuola. Ora ho una casa mia e vado e vengo quando voglio. Ma ho fatto uno sviluppo. Molti di noi se ne sono andati o hanno dormito per strada, pensando solo a mangiare e a dormire. […]
Ho fatto di tutto per imparare la lingua, per capire la cultura, per diventare un palermitano. Per me era ovvio, perché dietro ogni diritto c’è anche un dovere. Ho cercato di fare il mio dovere. Tuttavia, la Questura di Palermo non ha rinnovato il mio permesso di soggiorno – semplicemente non lo capisco! Il motivo è che manca il mio passaporto. […]
Per me, non è la città in sé che può fare la differenza. È la politica, decreti come il decreto della sicurezza. Questi decreti sono pericolosi sia per i cittadini che per gli stranieri. Sono in questo momento senza documenti e a Palermo non c’è niente che non abbia fatto per integrarmi, il linguaggio, le attività sociali, le attività artistiche, ho fatto di tutto. Ma allo stesso tempo sono dalla parte di coloro che fanno cose cattive e a loro vengono negati i documenti, e io sono da quella parte, ma ho fatto tutto. Ho aiutato le persone, ho aiutato me stesso, mi sono integrato in ogni modo, a 360 gradi. Ma sono senza documenti, solo perché non ho il passaporto. Quindi la mia identità non è più quella di Diawara B., tutto il lavoro che ho fatto per integrare non conta più. La mia identità rimarrà sempre quella del migrante. […]
Questo regolamento di sicurezza non raddoppia nient’altro che l’incertezza. Quando un politico dice: voglio ridurre l’insicurezza, voglio ridurre le irregolarità, voglio dare lavoro agli italiani, gli italiani prima di tutto, giusto? Se si dice questo e poi si revoca il permesso di soggiorno per motivi umanitari, significa che migliaia di persone sono senza documenti e perdono la loro casa. Uscivano quando non riuscivano a trovare soldi o un posto per dormire, facevano lavori illegali perché non potevano restare senza lavoro. Con il lavoro illegale tolgono il lavoro agli italiani. Allora, cosa ha fatto il vostro decreto? Aumenta la criminalità, aumenta il numero di lavoratori non dichiarati. Quindi il decreto sulla sicurezza è un decreto di insicurezza. Sono una di quelle persone che devono fare lavori non dichiarati perché non ho documenti. Io studio perché voglio imparare molte cose, voglio aiutare questo paese e anche il mio paese, ma quando il governo dice: non riconosciamo il tuo status di studente, cosa facciamo? […]
A Bruxelles ci hanno detto che volevano far passare una legge che dice che i rifugiati in barca, quando arrivano in un primo Paese europeo, quando vi sbarcano, sono un immigrato diretto da tutta Europa, ovunque si voglia. Ma sapete chi ha detto di no? La Lega e il movimento delle cinque stelle hanno detto di no, e sono le stesse persone che dicono che ci sono tanti immigrati. Se accettassero questa legge, i migranti non sarebbero qui in questo momento.

Vuoi andare avanti, vuoi uscire, ma non puoi perché la tua carta d’identità non è valida per lasciare il paese, quindi devi rimanere qui. Quando guardano la carta d’identità italiana, l’uscita è valida, perché vanno dove vogliono… E come puoi dirmi che siamo in troppi in Italia? Fatemi uscire! Non capisco questa politica. […]
Se qualcuno è venuto qui, ha iniziato a studiare e ha fatto molte cose per la società, cosa fanno i politici per aiutare quella persona? Se gli consegnassero dei documenti, potrebbe andare a lavorare regolarmente, in modo che una percentuale vada allo Stato, in modo che altre persone possano essere aiutate di nuovo. Ma se non rilasciano il permesso di soggiorno, la gente si scoraggia, 7 persone su 10 vanno a spacciare, gli altri lavorano in nero, rubano e vendono droga. […]

Vorrei dire ai politici italiani ed europei che l’immigrazione non è un crimine, è un fatto, è normale. […] Non c’è paese europeo che non sfrutti un paese africano. Perché [l’Europa] non accetta alcuni africani che vengono qui per realizzare qualcosa? Accettalo! Perché solo insieme possiamo realizzare grandi cose […]. E queste persone cercheranno di aprire la porta. Ma quando apro la mia porta e dico vieni, siamo tutti uguali ed è per questo che vieni con il tuo contributo, altrimenti cercherai di sfondare la porta. […]

Il problema grande, la gente non capisce cosa vuol dire immigrare, se sentono la parola immigrare pensano, oh no, hai preso il barcone dalla Libia e sei arrivato qua, finito. […] la gente non capisce il senso della migrazione, e questo crea tanti conflitti, se ci sediamo e parliamo capiamo tante cose. […] ho imparato un sacco di cose, questo mi ha dato il coraggio di studiare di piu, di fare più cose con persone che hanno un’ideologia diversa dalla mia, questo significa investire su un mondo nuovo, ma finchè noi vogliamo stare cavalli-cavalli, asini-asini, lupi-lupi, alla fine cosa facciamo, ci mangiamo a vicenda. […] questo significa migrare: Significa sentire i problemi dell’altro. Se c’è un problema in mali, tu hai pure in problema, perchè la gente scappa per venire qua. Quindi nel mondo, finchè siamo umani , il problema di uno è il problema di tutti. In un modo o nell’altro sentirai questo problema. Devono smettere di considerarci animali, di accettarci come esseri umani, con la nostra cultura, con la nostra dignità, la nostra ideologia, e le nostre religioni. Solo cosi possiamo andare avanti. Se palermo diventa capitale della cultura, cose’? Perchè ci sono tante persone divenute da diverse culture.”

DIAWARA, PALERMO, 12. giugnio 2019

 

“I felt trapped in the first reception center, like a prisoner. I tried hard, learned the language, went to school. Now I have my own home and I come and go whenever I want. But I have made a development. Many of us have left or slept on the street, thinking only about eating and sleeping. […]

I have done everything to learn the language, to understand the culture, to become a Palermitan. It was self-evident for me, because behind every right there is also a duty. I have tried to do my duty. Nevertheless, the Palermo police headquarters did not renew my residence permit – I simply do not understand it! The reason is that my passport is missing. […]

For me, it’s not the city in itself that can make a difference. It’s the politics, decrees like the security decree. These decrees are dangerous both for those who are citizens and for those who are foreigners. I am at this moment without documents and in Palermo there is nothing I haven’t done to integrate myself, the language, the social activities, artistic things, I have done everything. But at the same time I am on the side of those who do bad things and they are denied the documents, and I am on that side, but I have done everything. I have helped people, I have helped myself, I have integrated myself in every way, 360 degrees. But I am without documents, just because I don’t have a passport. So my identity is no longer that of Diawara B., all the work I have done to integrate no longer counts. My identity will always remain that of the migrant. […]

This safety regulation doubles nothing more than uncertainty. When a politician says: I want to reduce the insecurity, I want to reduce the irregularities, I want to give Italians a job, Italians first, right? If you say this and then revoke the residence permit for humanitarian reasons, it means that thousands of people are without papers and lose their homes. They go outside when they can’t find money or a place to sleep, they do illicit work because they can’t stay without work. With the illicit work they take the work away from the Italians. So what has your decree done? It increases crime, it increases the number of undeclared workers. So the security decree is a decree of insecurity. I am one of those people who have to do undeclared work because I don’t have any documents. I study because I want to learn many things, I want to help this country and also my country, but when the government says: we do not recognise your status as a student, what do we do? […]

In Brussels they told us that they wanted to pass a law that says that boat refugees, when they arrive in a first European country, when they land there, are a direct immigrant from all over Europe, wherever you want. But you know who said no? The League and the five-star movement 11The Italian parties Lega (also Lega Nord) and Movimento 5 Stelle (English: 5-Stars-Movement), which belong to the right-wing spectrum, formed a government coalition between March 2018 and August 2019, in which the head of the Lega, Matteo Salvini, was Minister of the Interior and, among other things, enforced the anti-migration line of the party with the “Security Decree”.  have said no, and it is the same people who say that there are so many immigrants. If they would accept this law, the migrants would not be here right now. You want to go on, you want to get out, but you can’t because your identity card is not valid for leaving the country, so you have to stay here. When they look at the Italian identity card, the exit is valid because they go where they want … And how can you tell me that there are too many of us in Italy? Let me out! I don’t understand this policy. […]

If someone has come here, started studying and done many things for society, what do politicians do to help that person? If they would give documents to the person, he could go to work regularly, so that a percentage goes to the state, so that other people can be helped again. But if they don’t issue residence permits, people get discouraged, 7 out of 10 people go peddling, the others work black, steal and sell drugs. […]

The big problem is that people do not understand what it means to emigrate. When they hear the word ‘migrant’ they think, ‘Oh no, they took the boat from Libya and came here.’ […] People do not understand the importance of migration and this leads to so many conflicts. When we sit down and talk, we understand many things. […] I have learned many things. That gave me the courage to learn more and to do more things with people who have a different ideology, that means investing in a new world, but as long as we want to be horses, donkeys or wolves, we end up eating each other […]. Migration means feeling the problems of others. If there is a problem in Mali, we have a problem here because people run away to come here. That’s how it works in the world as long as we are human beings: The problem of one person is the problem of everyone. Either way, we will feel the problems here. You have to stop thinking of us as animals; and accept us as human beings, with our culture, our dignity, our ideology and our religions. Only then can we move forward. Palermo is the Capital of Culture because there are so many people here who come from different cultures.”

Diawara B., June 12, 2019, Palermo

    Footnotes

  • 1The Italian parties Lega (also Lega Nord) and Movimento 5 Stelle (English: 5-Stars-Movement), which belong to the right-wing spectrum, formed a government coalition between March 2018 and August 2019, in which the head of the Lega, Matteo Salvini, was Minister of the Interior and, among other things, enforced the anti-migration line of the party with the “Security Decree”.

Diawara B. comes from Mali and left his family at the age of 15 to work in Algeria. He stayed one year and 7 months, working and putting money aside to open a business in Mali. When the situation in Mali worsened and he was also treated worse and worse in Algeria – “they treated me like a monkey, like Bilal, a former slave who was bought free by the Prophet Mohammed” – he  crossed over to Sicily in late summer 2016. He came as a minor and has been living in Italy ever since. After a stay in an initial reception centre in Sicily, where he was practically imprisoned for three weeks, he came to Palermo by a detour in December 2016. Today he is attending an international high school, involved in the Giocherenda project and hopes to graduate in order to study.

The so-called “security decree” of October 2018 has recently made him lose his residence status, which means that from one day to the next he will find himself in an extremely precarious situation, which in the worst case could deprive him of the right to go to school.

In the interview, Diawara B. criticises the fact that the Italian authorities and Italy’s restrictive migration policy reduce him to the role of an undesirable migrant, regardless of the fact that he makes great efforts to build a life in Palermo and make social contributions. He especially raises the problem of the so-called “security decree” which was passed at the end of 2018 by the Italian government coalition of the Five-Star Movement and the Lega Nord and the Minister of the Interior, Matteo Salvini. The decree contains many changes with regard to the regulation of international protection and immigration, which have led to drastic cuts in the Italian asylum legislation and protection system and thus to radical restrictions on the (legal) possibilities of people to build a life in Italy.

For example, residence permits are no longer issued for humanitarian reasons – and this, considering that about 20-25% of asylum applications have been converted into such permits in recent years. Thanks to humanitarian permits, many migrants have received papers and have had the opportunity to integrate into Italian society. The abolition of residence permits for humanitarian reasons has led to the illegalization of thousands of migrants on Italian territory.

In turn, more migrants are forced to work illegally.

In addition, the decree has drastically restricted the reception system in Italy. The Italian system of protection for asylum seekers and refugees (SPRAR), which has functioned well so far, now only provides for the reception of migrants who have been granted recognized refugee status or subsidiary protection (unaccompanied minors remain an exception). What will happen to the majority of refugees who are denied access to SPRAR is easy to imagine and thwarts the new law called the “Security Decree”.

In addition, Diawara B. criticises that refugees have to remain in Europe because of the European asylum legislation. This means above all the Dublin Regulation, according to which that EU state is responsible for processing an asylum application in which an asylum seeker was first registered in Europe. Without recognition status, the freedom of movement of refugees in Europe is severely restricted.

How were the films and fragments in Palermo made?

Diawara B. and Diallo S. from Giocherenda held a three-day workshop with six participants in Palermo: Glory M., Fatima D., Ismail A., Kadijatu J., Marrie S. and Mustapha F. Mixing different approaches and games, the group exchanged personal experiences and shared them in the black box in front of the camera. Furthermore, Fatima D., Ismail A. and Mustapha F. consented to being portrayed in short films by the We Refugees Archive film crew beyond the workshop. The portraits deal with their lives in the city.

Giocherenda is a professional organization led by, for and with young refugees in Palermo that offers storytelling games. Its aim is not to help refugees and support them, but the opposite: refugees bring locals together for the sake of exchanging their experiences with refugees.

The word Giocherenda stems from the Fula language Pular, primarily spoken in Guinea, and connotes solidarity, interdependence and strength generated from people getting together. Phonetically, it resembles the Italian word “giocare” (to play), which inspired the collective to develop games for the sake of producing narratives and personal memories.

Refugees’ perspectives

In the interviews, the film crew consciously abstained from screenplays and standardized questions. Instead, the refugees directed the course of the interview and discussed only those topics they were willing to speak about. With We Refugee Archive’s mission in mind, the participants’ personal experiences in Palermo and their visions for the near future was the rough focal point. Thus, experiences during and personal trajectories of forced migration to Europe were shared and discussed at the individual’s own will and not required nor elicited on demand.

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