“No photos here. Nobody likes to be photographed. These people are not a tourist attraction”.
Our cultural mediator Ousmane makes sure we understand this. We’re visiting the makeshift camps in the Rosarno area, Calabria, where migrants who come to the area annually to harvest oranges every year live.
With us is Loredana, another cultural mediator.
“Ciao Loredana! Comment ça va?”.
It’s the voice of a young man who is walking towards us with a big smile. They start talking and I immediately find out how they know each other: three years ago, Loredana worked in the countryside in Foggia and that’s where she met M., 26 years old, from Mali.
“When the tomato season in Apulia ended, I kept looking for work in Italy. Some time passed, but I found nothing. I knew that I was going to find better working conditions and a better salary abroad, so I tried moving to France. But the police stopped me and forced me back to Italy. So I tried again, and this time I managed to arrive in Spain. I worked in Murcia for a few months and…”
I instinctively stop him “Ah vraiment, á Murcia?” “Oui, oui! Tu connais Murcia?”, answers M. with a contagious smile. “Yes! I lived there for six months, during my Erasmus!” I go on.
Loredana continues her conversation for a few minutes and my mind starts wandering. “What did I just tell him?”, I start asking myself. I thought about that question many times.
In Spain, I had one of the best experiences of my university years, as did many of my peers from across Europe and from around the world. M. found himself in that same place but in completely different conditions. The borders that were wide open for me were closed for him.
I said what I said without thinking, just to find something in common with him, as you do with strangers.
But the truth is that I felt ashamed. I felt ashamed because I dared telling him that those borders can open for me with a simple piece of paper, but for him they are a wall without a door, that he can only climb with difficulty, hoping that he won’t be pushed back down.
I felt ashamed because I couldn’t have offered an explanation for that difference in opportunities. Mine and his.
Caterina, EMERGENCY staff