It’s morning. I am sitting at the bar. I’m having breakfast. I’m with other people.
Suddenly, a gentleman approaches, the usual rose seller, asking us for a euro for a beer.
At nine in the morning.
With just one euro.
And if you’re wondering: no, it’s not a joke.
Logically he insists, becoming almost annoying. I get nervous.
Here comes a question: “Why don’t you find a normal job, instead of pissing me off at nine in the morning, just before another, yet another, day of classes begins?”
And here I am, I keep thinking about it. I want to understand something, go to the bottom of the question: I am convinced that it is important to understand what difficulties an irregular immigrant may have in looking for and then (perhaps) finding a job, starting from the reception centers, from the first moment in which he touches Italian soil, impressed like Armstrong on the moon in 1969.
So I start filling my pc with files, data and statistics on migrants, treating them like any engineering theory.
Among a thousand thousand websites I also found a formality, one of those things that we like so much: the distinction between irregular migrant, asylum seeker, refugee and illegal immigrant.
I’ll try to explain it: an irregular migrant is a person who enters Italy without regular border control or who has arrived regularly on Italian soil but whose visa (the one that non-EU tourists have, with a validity of three months) or residence permit has expired. After having applied for political asylum protection, while therefore awaiting the response, we speak of asylum seeker.
It is important to know that from the moment in which he has submitted the request he becomes a full-fledged immigrant.
When this request is approved by the Italian State it is referred to as a refugee.
The term clandestine is in no way defined either by international documents or by EU law: it is therefore used in popular jargon to indicate a person without a residence permit.
It took me days to realize that to talk about people you have to talk to people.
So I turned to Tamara, who deals with HR in Adecco, to Elena who advised me to speak with Fiorenzo, head of the Hospitality and Hospitality sector of the “Casa della Carità” association. He pointed out Stephan and Dieudonné to me as possible immigrants to interview, whose stories have embellished my life. I also thank Kebe who with a smile on his face told me his story, very difficult and touching.
Talking to people means first of all getting to know them. To get to know them at least minimally, I think it is important to have their story told: I will try to condense it into a few lines, but, if you want, you can find the full interviews on the official PoliPo website.
Stephan, who as a child dreamed of being a reporter, left Cameroon in 2012, arriving in Italy by plane as a tourist. Here he is hosted by an acquaintance of his at a university residence for the first two months: then he is thrown out of the house due to legislative problems and ends up in a reception center in Milan, an experience that will be fundamental for him. Initially, he will struggle to find work: being qualified as a plumber in Cameroon, he hopes to get a job in that area without succeeding. He is thus forced to accept much humbler jobs. Despite a difficult period, today he made it: he is a coordinator of services at the Casa della Carità. He likes it because “it allows to give support to immigrants: I give them the possibility that I did not have”.
Dieudonné, on the other hand, leaves from the Ivory Coast, where he attended scientific high school and then a building design school, on 20 December 1982 by plane. He will make a stop in France, from where, by train, he will reach Rome and then Perugia, where he will immediately enroll at the university for foreigners, in order to learn Italian as soon as possible. His story, full of details, teaches us the enormous importance of finding people willing to do good along their path: today he is an IT manager at a large multinational.
Kebe leaves from Senegal, where he graduated as a welder, in 2012. He arrives in Morocco: here he takes a boat to cross the Strait of Gibraltar. He stays in Spain for two years without knowing even a word of Spanish, and then moves to France, where he works for a year, until he arrives in Italy, in Florence, as an illegal immigrant. Today he works as a cleaner for a cooperative.
They will be the protagonists of this article: me, just a spokesperson.
Today, Law 130 of December 2020 regulates the reception of irregular immigrants.
These are taken to the first reception centers, close to the landing sites, where they receive medical assistance and are identified. Then they are sorted into “economic migrants”, who will have to go to a detention center for repatriation (CPR) to await repatriation, and into “migrants seeking asylum”. The latter, together with the holders of protection, access the Sai (reception and integration system), managed mainly by the Municipalities, that is, by state bodies. This system has two levels: the first is of the assistance type and dedicated to asylum seekers, while the second also offers integration and career guidance services and is intended for protection holders.
The Sai replaces what was previously called Siproimi, which in turn replaced the Sprar since October 2018.
An alternative system to the state one is the Cas (extraordinary reception center). This is run by private entities and is used when there are no more places in the Sai. In recent years, this type of structure is increasingly used (given the emergency).
I wondered how people really lived in the reception centers. In this regard, Stephan’s story amazed me:
“Of course, you don’t lead a normal life: you have precise rules, even on timetables. For example, you have to enter after 17.30 and exit by 9.00.
In the centers – he adds – there are 12 people in the same room: you sleep with 11 strangers, whom you meet only there in the evening. It is also difficult to live with others: especially in large realities, such as that of Milan, people who are very different from each other, both in character and in culture, meet. “
It is true, there are strict rules and perhaps difficult to understand, but the reception centers are really useful, as “volunteers run Italian courses and lend a hand to look for work: sometimes they help you with your curriculum or ad face an interview. “
For Stephan it was not just a cold place to stay and learn, but “it was a school of life: it opened my mind. I learned the power of sharing, to be patient and to listen to others “.
On the other hand, Kebe lived a story with very different shades. For the first few months, in Florence, he lived on the street as a peddler: “Thanks to some of my friends, I started buying low-cost bags at the Chinese market and then reselling them at the San Lorenzo market. Logically you had to be careful not to get caught by the police ”.
Now one could think of Stephan as the “good guy” and of Kebe as the “bad guy”, the one who comes to Italy to steal.
However, we must not forget that these are not desired choices but imposed by circumstances.
The same circumstances that push them to leave their country and family reluctantly, as Kebe explains: “Unfortunately many of us (Senegalese, ed.) Are forced to emigrate: the economic agreements stipulated by the Government with France, mainly, and then also with Great Britain, they take away a lot of resources from my country. All this then affects us citizens, who do not have great job opportunities, despite the level of general education “.
Once they arrive in Italy and have been regularized (or not), migrants face other barriers, such as the language and a residence permit.
I am struck by how Dieudonné made Italian a “cornerstone” of his travel plan: “Through the embassy, I had already enrolled in a university for foreigners: I knew it was essential to learn Italian”.
Kebe, on the other hand, gained experience “in the field”, as they say: “I learned Italian while I was a peddler in Florence. At the market, while we were selling the bags, if I did not understand a word I would ask a friend of mine the meaning, he would explain it to me, then I would write the word and then repeat it many times until it entered my head “.
Yet, despite the complexity of Italian, according to Dieudonné “it becomes a difficult language for foreigners who form ghettos”, as they are not forced to practice.
Having overcome the “linguistic boulder”, the immigrant is forced to deal with the notorious residence permit.
It is a mandatory document for non-EU citizens who stay in the Bel Paese for over 90 days, after which time the tourist visa expires.
Many, including Stephan and Dieudonné, take advantage of the validity of the visa.
It can also be requested at authorized post offices, but it is issued by the Police Headquarters (except in special cases in which it is the competence of the Prefecture, such as for family reunification).
This has a certain duration which depends on the type of permit issued and it is essential to ask for renewal. In fact, if the deadline comes before the end date of the employment contract, at the time of hiring the employer cannot by law hire the candidate. This does not happen if you are in possession of the postal receipt certifying the request for renewal, which must still be carried out at least 60 days before the deadline.
Furthermore, the residence permit has a cost that varies according to the period of validity. However, some categories of migrants, such as asylum seekers and holders of international protection, are exempt from payment.
When they arrive, the migrants already know of the existence of the document, but it is difficult for them to carry out the procedures to request it: “I did not know how to obtain it – explains Stephan – and going to a reception center allowed me to be helped and guided by volunteers, educators and lawyers “.
It is therefore the usual “Italian” bureaucracy, complex and limiting. This is why I asked Dieudonné what he thought about an eventual abolition. His response surprised me: “It is a necessary document to differentiate who is a foreigner and who is Italian. I don’t think it’s right to remove it, but it needs to be studied better (…) it must allow you to work: if you have a family, how do you do it? ” And, regarding the possibility of generating undeclared work, he adds: “Definitely yes because those who do not have it, still need to eat: he is forced to accept such a job”.
Moreover, “Italy has always approved laws to “fix it”: the Martelli law (1990), the Turco-Napolitano (1998) and the Bossi-Fini (2002) are clear examples: they regularized only people who were already here , thus not giving the possibility to regularly enter Italy ”, Fiorenzo explains to me.
On the other hand, Kebe’s experience is different, who, in order to arrive in Italy by land, could not even try to request it in Spain and France: “following the Dublin law – specifies Fiorenzo – once the recognition has been made and protection has been obtained ( and therefore the residence permit) in a specific country, the immigrant can no longer change residence, ie he cannot go and live in another country “. So he was almost forced to remain an irregular migrant for years, always with the fear that they could repatriate him.
Migrants therefore find themselves having to face a wall, not physical like the one erected by Orban in 2015 on the border between Hungary and Serbia, but virtual, whose bricks are laws, bureaucracy and language, linked together by a very powerful mortar: racism.
However, they have developed a plan to demolish it: to remain cohesive, in solidarity with each other.
As stated by Tamara and then testified by Stephan, “when one of us is offered a job that he cannot accept, perhaps because the place is too far away and therefore unreachable, if he knows a” brother “who could instead be available, we do the your name and we provide your contact.
This is because we understand that in Italy if you don’t know anyone you have no chance, especially us Sub-Saharanians: we need ties. Usually we find work in this way at 65% (it is not an empirical datum) “.
This “unpaid” solidarity makes us reflect so much on the cultural differences between the great powers, such as Europe and the USA, and Africa: while the former are now dangerously individualistic and ready to crush anyone in order to assert themselves, the others extend their hand to those who is drowning.
However, I could not conclude without giving in to the temptation to analyze some data.
In 2020, according to money.it, an investment of around 2.1 billion euros was estimated for transport, rescue, reception centers, staff salaries, first aid services for migrants, protection and training.
It may seem like a huge amount to the eye. But, before we start ranting, let’s study a couple more data.
According to a video published by Corriere TV, in 2019 the Italian unemployed were 2.4 million, while the foreign employed, 2.5. One might therefore think that (regular) immigrants steal our work: to deny it is ISTAT which certifies that most immigrants work mainly in sectors such as agriculture, care and assistance and manufacturing. Sectors little occupied by Italians.
Furthermore, according to Corriere TV, foreign workers (10.6% of the population) produce 9% of the Italian GDP, equal to 140 billion. In math 2.1 it is a number much smaller than 140.
According to the economy, however, by investment we mean risking a certain amount of money to get a much higher one: goal achieved? I think so.
Without forgetting one last study, also carried out by ISTAT: in 2020 a number of about 600,000 irregular immigrants was estimated to be employed in the agriculture, assistance, logistics and construction sectors. If these were regularized, they would bring about 1.2 billion more into the pockets of the state.
In addition to benefiting the country’s economy, immigrants serve us to fight what is defined as the “demographic winter”: today there is a ratio of three workers for every two elderly people. However, it is thought that by 2050 this ratio will reach 1: 1: “not stonks”, we would say.
“Stephan, what would your dream today be?”
“My dream is that immigrants are recognized as resources”.