As a member of The Citadel group studying abroad in Naples, Italy, I will be working with the International Napoli Network and its associate groups to help refugees/migrants and human trafficking victims. This week I had my first opportunity to go with a LESS social worker, Marina, to visit one of the group homes
The home consisted of 12 young men between the ages of 19 and 25. They were from Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan. Many of them reported they had traveled to Italy by boat through the Mediterranean Sea. They had paid a fee to a middle man or broker for the transportation. Since their arrival in Italy, LESS has provided each of them with an apartment, a SIM card, and a small allowance. The allowance is for the purchase of a cell phone, clothing, food, and spending money. The four-bedroom apartment houses three men to a room, and they are responsible for coordinating their own cleaning and food preparation. They were also given a physical to determine whether they had any health needs. In return for this support, they are required to attend Italian and socialization classes to assist with their assimilation to Italy. LESS also offers job training for refugees if needed. If a refugee fails to attend required classes or training, his or her allowance is reduced. This is the main way of motivating them to participate.
One man I met with spoke English very well. Ali reported he left Pakistan for religious reasons. His family is Sunni Muslim, but under the influence of an Aunt, he felt compelled to join the Shia. The family argued with him, but he was firm in his conviction. Ali’s life was threatened by his brother and other family members. One evening, when he saw them with guns, he jumped the balcony and ran to his Aunt’s home. His aunt made arrangements with smugglers to take Ali from Pakistan to Libya. From Libya, he traveled to Sicily and then to Naples. He decided to seek asylum in Italy for religious reasons.
Ali is a very interesting man. He stated he was educated in Pakistan where he earned a certificate. In his home country, Ali was employed with the government as a foreman to oversee the construction of buildings and roads. In addition to English, Ali stated he is proficient in Arabic, French, and Urdu. In the nine months he has been in Italy, he also has learned Italian. Ali has not been before the Commission to plead his case for asylum yet. He says that, if it is granted, he plans to stay in Italy, find a job, and help others in similar situations.
- Barbara Brown