FROM LIBYA TO LAMPEDUSA: LIFE IN ITALY FOR SOMALI REFUGEES
They call them Ciyaalka Badda or children from the sea. This phrase is used when referring to the young Somali refugees who come by boat from North Africa.
The expressions of the eight young Somali men leaning against the wall outside Termini station tell a complex story. They are caught in the midst of a political turmoil. Trapped between one country that disregards their existence and another whose very existence is in question, they struggle to find their place in the world.
Since the collapse of the government over two decades ago, Somalia has become the second largest refugee producing country in the world. In the last ten years, there has been an influx of African refugees and migrants to southern Europe. Using Italy as a mere transit point, their goal is to reach the rest of Europe. However, many do not make it past Italian territory.
It is their hands that tie them to Italy.
Due to the Dublin II Regulation, asylum-seekers must wait their application process in the country of first entry. A comprehensive finger print system (EURODAC) alerts immigration officials of illegal migrants in the European Union. This procedure was put in place to prevent the same applications from being examined by several EU member states. With very little social support from the Italian government and a backlog of the asylum applications, refugees often find themselves in a limbo as they spend their days waiting.
The problematic nature of the European Union asylum system is that while each member state has the same policies and laws in regards to Dublin II, the practical application of these policies varies from country to country. The results are disastrous for refugees as there have been countless human rights violations across Italy.
Though many asylum-seekers are given humanitarian protection in Italy, they are without basic necessities of life. Facing overcrowded shelters, they find themselves on the street. Having only arrived in Italy ten days prior, one 18-year-old Somali refugee describes the risky journey that many take in hopes of reaching Europe: