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“But if you could … would you go back home?”


Precisely one month ago, on the night of 26 January, a fire destroyed the makeshift camp for migrants in San Ferdinando, indicative of the social collapse that has taken place in the valley of Gioia Tauro.

The shacks that burned have been replaced by ash and mud. Those that remain, of which there are around 200, are built with pieces of wood, corrugated iron, and plastic sheeting, in what was supposed, 8 years ago, to be a ‘temporary’ solution developed after violent clashes in the town of Rosarno.

San Ferdinando camp for migrant after the fire destroyed it

And yet, even now, 2000 people continue to live amidst the ‘skeletons’ of shacks, the remains of burned bicycles and the noxious substances created during the fire. Without toilets, water or electricity, surviving in inhumane conditions.

In San Ferdinando this ongoing emergency has lasted too long.

“Those who did not find accommodation in the facilities provided by the Civil Protection Department after the fire – which were insufficient to accommodate everyone affected – sought makeshift shelter in abandoned warehouses in the area. These temporary fixes are not a true solution, there is an obligation to implement active policies of hospitality and integration. The segregation that is fuelled by these types of emergency solutions must be abolished”, explains Alessia, Coordinator of the Polistena Outpatient Centre.

But if you could … would you go back home?” This is what we ask ‘A.’ after a chat at the edge of the makeshift camp, surrounded by rubbish and piles of rotten oranges. These days, cold weather has arrived here too, and it’s raining heavily.

The paths that we travelled down to get here, lined by orange groves, did not suggest that we would arrive in a shantytown, where migration no longer appears to represent a chance to improve one’s life… but in fact the complete opposite.

‘A.’ arrived in Sicily two years ago and studied to obtain the equivalent of an eighth-grade diploma. He does not think long before answering the question. “No, I would not go home, I left Gambia, I went through Libya and it was tough, I did it because I was in danger and because my dream was to study … it still is.”

‘A.’ is one of the patients that EMERGENCY took care of in the Polistena Clinic in 2017, one of 1490 in total.

Now I live here, this is my life, I will not give up until it changes,” ‘A.’ continues. Laughter. “I laugh, but the situation doesn’t make me laugh,” he says. “I know,” I answer.

— Rossella, staff di EMERGENCY