One of the speakers at the 2nd “Global Human Rights Forums” conference organized by civil society association “Social Margin Center” was Dayla Briganti from Italy. Dayla is an attorney lawyer working with refugees and asylum seekers. In this interview she is sharing her experience on daily basis and views about the future of integration programs for those people.
“Migrants who live in independent accommodations are isolated from the society and exposed to the risk of being a victim of the black labor market or of prostitution.”
For the very beginning of the interview could you inform our readers about the situation in refugee camps in Italy?
– Starting from the moment a migrant reaches the Italian coasts he/she faces two possibilities of being settled. One is the official re-settlement program ran by the government within the legal system of hosting and protecting asylum seekers. In these structures called “Hot Spot”, people are registered within the national system; some police officers are in charge of taking their finger prints and they receive the initial and most essential cares and nourishment in order to re-stabilized them after having passed through the long and difficult journey. After 3 days, they are re-accommodated in different structures spread in different regions of the country. This new accommodation is in charge of their integration until the moment the hosted asylum seekers receives the stay permission. The other way is represented by independent resettlements that are autonomous from any national or international projects. Most of them are abandoned and people who live there don’t receive any kind of support. Most of the time, the migrants who live in these accommodations are isolated from the society and exposed to the risk of being a victim of the black labor market or of prostitution (especially in case of unaccompanied minors).
What do the living conditions look like?
– As I already described, the kind of re-settlements the refugee have been hosted in are able to define their living conditions. It’s important to underline that degrading living conditions with no access to basic needs are illegal and need be denounced to the authorities regardless of being within official programs or within independent accommodations.
In some camps across the Europe asylum seekers have experienced violence based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. What are the experiences in Italy and whether there have been such cases?
– Personally, I don’t have detailed and clear information about this issue. It might be happening. However I can’t report about it.
– At the moment, I’m following and coordinating within the SPRAR project in Italy the integration of a group of asylum seekers and refugees from different countries. In specific, I’m in charge of their education (e.g. the attendance at the Italian school organized in the local community I work in), their physical and mental well being, the achievement of their stay permission following the legal aspects of it and their professional occupation through the participation at vocational trainings or internships in particular sectors that are the most ideal in terms of possibility of employment in this geographical area of the country.
“The lack of employment for migrants might fuel the “fear” of the other expressed by some nationals and fuelled by the right-wing propaganda.”
Your approach is very specific and you are guided by the O’Connor’s quote: “I would like refugees to be considered as individuals with values, heritage, identity and personal skills”. What does it mean to you?
– Yes, I’ve decided to focus my efforts on the attempt to integrate them using a personal approach. Often time, asylum seekers are considered a mass of people with no individuality and are treated as a crowd. In contrast, I strongly believe that each individual can contribute to the improvement of the Italian society with his/her own skills and that he/she deserves to be evaluated as single person owning specific instruments of resilience in the new society. For this reason, I created new little projects of integration within my community involving a group of friends, family members or colleagues in order to increment their sense of belonging in the host society.
What are the biggest problems for social integration of refugees in Italy?
– One of the biggest problem asylum seekers can face in dealing with their social integration is the low level of employment in Italy. Although they gain the stay permission, they cannot be completely integrated without a job, without the local residency that provides the access to various public services. In addition, the lack of professional occupation expose them to the risk of being marginalized, of committing crimes and to become part of various trafficking. In these cases, the lack of employment for migrants might fuel the “fear” of the other expressed by some nationals and fuelled by the right-wing propaganda.
What are the tools that you suggest in order to solve this issue?
– My experience suggests that providing a constant support to each migrant hosted in the accommodations located in the Italian territory might give them more chances to survive and to re-establish a new life in the host country. That support should be based on respecting personal aspirations, the cultural background and their individual projects and also on understanding their point of views without imposing them the western lifestyle.
– Of course. Some of the instruments we use are organizing public events in the community and in schools, involving students and young volunteers in the activities we conduct with migrants and organizing social dinners, theatre events or arts projects that can put in communication different cultures. I think that the result would be the realization that, although we may have different religion and backgrounds, we are all humans.
“The most vulnerable are unaccompanied children, women and victims of violence, abuses or tortures.”
The project you are working at also provides psychological support, especially for the most vulnerable groups. In what way are these groups additionally vulnerable?
– The most vulnerable are unaccompanied children, women and victims of violence, abuses or tortures. In these cases, the ideal humanitarian action plan should be oriented in understanding their needs and providing them the right instruments to protect their interests. For instance, women might be exposed to prostitution, children as well might be victims of prostitution, trafficking or black labor market. Being subjected to these illegal environments makes them more vulnerable due to the fact that they can’t access the public services or having regular documents. In addition, being isolated from the society limit their possibility to be informed about the national instruments of protection established in defense of these cases and reduce their possibility to change their lives.
What are the obstacles for asylum seekers to achieve the national Visa?
– Claiming the national VISA is a process that provides the stay permission for asylum seekers who demonstrate to possess the requirements established by the Refugee Convention of 1951. There are 3 level of protection guaranteed: the status of refugee, the subsidiary protection and the permission given for humanitarian grounds. The status of refugee is recognized for people who experienced a persecution for reasons of race, religion, sexual orientation or political one (5 years permission). The subsidiary protection is recognized for people who demonstrated the presence of a concrete danger of persecution if they will be repatriated in the country of origin (5 years permission). The humanitarian protection is recognized for people who didn’t experience discrimination or persecution but deserve the permission in order to resolve different kind of issues such as receiving medical treatments or resolving serious economical problems through a new job (2 years permission). If the asylum seeker is not able to demonstrate one of these grounds of protection, the Italian authority won’t provide the national Visa.
– Good question. Humanitarian workers should be emphatic with people in need. They should try not to follow just the mandate of the organization or the interests of donors, but to be focused on the person and on the positive way to solve their problems. In addition, humanitarian workers should be more trained to work with forced migrations in order to be specialized in this delicate and complicated issue.
Interviewed by Nemanja Marinović
The 3rd Global Human Rights Forum will be held in Belgrade 26-28 October 2017
The call for applicants and speakers is open.