Tags / asylum seekers
Italy, Rome: A woman fells on ground after being hit by a water cannon used to disperse refugees who were evicted from a palace in the center of Rome on August 24, 2017. The UN's refugee agency (UNHCR) voiced "grave concern" over the eviction of 800 people from a Rome building squatted mainly by asylum seekers and refugees from Eritrea and Ethiopia. Almost 200 people expelled from the building sleep on the streets from 19 of August.
Pagi is a migrant soccer team in Saridinia, one of the poorest regions in Italy, but a place where migrants were welcomed by immigration centers as a response to the immigrants’ needs, mostly boys from Sub-Saharan Africa.
All asylum seekers want to find a job, however it is very difficult for them to do so in one of the poorest regions of Italy. For this reason the Cooperative decided to create this team to motivate and help these boys, who fled from wars, hunger and poverty that find themselves playing around a ball.
In Sassari, north of Sardinia, one of these centers called "Centro di Prima Accoglienza di Predda Niedda" created the football club ASD PAGI to help with the integration of young migrant boys.
Later, this club was officially registered in the second amateurs league. This is the first case in Italy in which a football club, entirely composed of immigrants without a residence permit and seeking international protection, has obtained from the FGC (Italian Football Federation) authorization to participate in the regional championship.
The immigration center was a hotel before, and it was called "Hotel Pagi". Nowadays, it is managed by the Cooperative ASD which created the football club ASD PAGI. It is the new home of approximately three hundred boys, most of whom come from different Sub-Saharan African countries like Nigeria, Gambia, Senegal, Togo and Mali. All of them are waiting the result of the Territorial Commission; the process can be concluded with the recognition of refugee status or subsidiary protection status, or a rejection, against which the applicant may appeal.
ShortDoc by Alice Sassu and Francesco Pistilli
A positive story of sports and integration coming from Sardinia, Sassari. Boys who fled from wars, hunger and poverty have ended up playing with a ball.
In Sardinia, one of the poorest regions in Italy, migrants are welcomed at immigration centres as a response to their emergency condition. The former "Hotel Pagi", located in the industrial area of the city, is now the "Centro di Prima Accoglienza di Predda Niedda", directed by the ASD Cooperative. Pierpaolo Cermelli, Fabiana Denurra and a cultural mediator, named Ali Bouchouata, have decided to create a football team to motivate the young boys and to promote their social integration. The "ASD Pagi" team, coached by Mauro Fanti, faces now the final stages of the championship, in the second regional division.
For the first time in the Italian history, an immigration centre gets approval from the Italian Football Game Federation to participate in a regional football league with a team entirely comprised by asylum seekers, waiting for a residence permission.
The centre homes approximately three hundred young people from different countries in sub-Saharan Africa (such as Nigeria, Gambia, Senegal, Togo, Mali). Some of these people ran away from family feuds, religious conflicts and dictatorial governments. Some others found themselves without a family, or are simply looking to change their "luck". But they all dream with starting a new life in Europe.
Pending on the resolution of the Territorial Commission, these asylum seekers follow the legal steps of a process that will finish with one the following possible outcomes: a recognition of their refugee status, a subsidiary or humanitarian protection, or their deportation. The bureaucracy is way too slow, and the majority of them must wait at least two or three years to know their fate. Meanwhile, some of them try to defy the football teams of one of the poorest regions of Italy.
After traveling thousands of miles across multiple countries, the players of ASD Pagi use their soccer matches as a temporary escape and a way to forget that they are still in search of a permanent home. Running on their dusty field with their teammates offers a sense of freedom and, perhaps more importantly, a temporary family.
Compared to other regional teams, ASD Pagi sometimes struggles to practice before the season begins. At the season opener, they played on their home field but lost.
With Sardinia already one of Italy's poorest regions, it is challenging for refugees to find a job. Sometimes they are reduced to begging for change from passerby.
Part of the all-migrant football team living inside an immigration centre in a suburb of Sassari, in Sardinia, Italy. Sometimes the ASD Pagi football club organizes friendly games with other teams composed of refugees at other immigration centres.
Mujeeb Adebisi, 19 years-old, from Nigeria. Mujeed was football player in his country. Mujeed lost his sister in a car accident in which he was the driver. After her death he faced many problems in the neighbourhood and had to leave. Mujeeb during his journey north he has passed through Niger before arriving in Libya. In Libya he was kidnapped and had to live for two months in a small room with many other refugees. Mujeeb is a new player for the all-refugee football club "ASD Pagi".
Two teenage Syrian girls describe the harrowing journey from Syria to Sweden, just two of 1,049,716 who made the journey to Europe to seek asylum from conflict in 2015.
BÅSTAD, Sweden – The two girls huddled together bracing against the bumps and jerks of the long journey. In the darkness they could see the outline of the other refugees who shared their ride, but it was too dark to see their faces.
Suddenly, a small window slid open at the front of the truck container. A man’s voice yelled to the group of occupants to be silent. A hush fell over the travelers as the girls wondered where they were, and what danger was lurking on the other side of their metal box.
“The hardest part is not knowing where you are – just the inside of a truck,” said Reny Borro, 15, who now lives in a refugee camp in Sweden. Sitting next to her at the table was her best friend and former travel companion Hanin Atbash.
“We didn’t even know if it was night or day because we were always in the dark. It smelled so horrible in there,” recalled Hanin, who lives in another camp 15km away.
The girls were on a 10-day journey set to change their lives entirely. Any hope of going home had been shattered years ago by the conflict that ignited in 2011, forcing their families to flee to Turkey. Now, they were on route to Sweden.
“The [driver] would open the door and he would just say ‘Move! Move! Fast! Fast!’” Hanin said, recalling how every few days the group would change vehicles. “He was really rude with us. We’d just move from this truck to another truck. He’d say don’t ask where we are or what we’re doing. Just move. That’s how we came here.”
Together with their mothers, young brothers and Hanin’s father, they were a living cargo being shipped across the continent for tens of thousands in cash.
Life in Syria
The girls, now 15, were not yet teenagers when the conflict began four and half years ago.
“Life was normal, happy,” said Reny as she described her childhood in Aleppo, Syria. “Going to school, going to my grandmothers. Being cooked the best food. We had our home. I had my room, my friends. Then all the problems started.”
Reny is Kurdish, a minority group that make up around 10% of the Syrian population. Before the revolution began, Reny said her class paid no attention to religious and ethnic differences.
“We were all friends,” she said.
But as the revolution gained momentum divisions and distrust set in.
“We weren’t a class anymore,” Reny said.
One day, Reny’s brother, then 7, came home in tears. His best friend, also a Kurd, had been beaten by Arab students at school.
“He saw this happen and was so scared and crying,” she said. “From that time on, we didn’t go to school.”
The day the bombing started in Aleppo, Reny’s father booked them all bus tickets to stay with his relatives in the Kurdish town of Qamishli. They packed light planning to return within a few days, leaving almost everything they owned behind including crucial documents and personal treasures.
“I have no idea if my house is still there, or if my room is still standing,” said Reny.
Meanwhile, in Damascus, things were heating up in Hanin’s neighborhood.
“When the protests started it was pretty scary because there were a lot of kidnappings and things, so we stayed at home mostly. But in our area, bombs might come over at any time,” Hanin said.
People had begun to disappear. Thousands were arrested first by government forces and later by ad hoc rebel groups and criminal gangs. Kidnappings to extort money from families were on the increase by all sides. Anyone, young or old, could be targeted.
Hanin spoke of one incident when her mother, held up by street protests and road blocks, was late in picking her up from school. As she waited alone, a group of young men began to gather across the street, staring and pointing in her direction. Scared she walked on but the group followed, all the time watching her.
“I was so scared they were going to kidnap me,” Hanin said. “Then my mother came. I was so scared I was shouting at her in the car for being late. From that day on, I stopped going to school.”
Escaping the chaos
Soon after, Hanin’s father, who had already fled conflict in his native Palestine over a decade before, decided to pack up his family and flee again. But leaving was not so easy. Others who had tried were arrested and imprisoned by the government, disappeared at checkpoints, or simply vanished on route. They were going to need a smuggler.
“We didn’t know who this man was. We didn’t know anything about him,” Hanin said, describing the driver who collected them from her grandfather’s house silently in the dead of night. “He covered his face so we couldn’t even see him. We just gave him the money and got into the truck.”
The trip from Damascus to the Turkish border, normally a mere 4-hour drive, took one week.
“There were other families [in the truck] but we didn’t know them or even speak with them. We couldn’t even see each other. We’d just see some bodies when the door opened,” Hanin said.
The family had no idea where they were or what was going on around them. Silently they prayed in the darkness they were heading out of Syria and no one would catch them along the way.
“[The driver] would give us something – I can’t call it food – just something to stop the hunger. For the bathroom we had to hold it most of the time."
When they arrived safely in Turkey, Hanin said they saw their travel companions for the first time.
"We were all like, “Oh my God, were you the families with us in the truck?” It was kind of like freedom because I was so scared in Syria and then in the truck thinking the police could take us at ay time. We were really scared. So it was a relief.”
In Turkey, Hanin met Reny whose family had also fled there from the Kurdish region which was now under threat from extremist forces who had developed a bitter rivalry with the Kurdish militia groups.
To Europe in the back of a truck
For more than a year, the two families struggled in Turkey without legal status or decent work. Finally, with all hope of returning to Syria lost, they began planning an escape to Europe.
Reny’s mother ruled out sea travel as stories of boat wrecks and drowning’s trickled back to them every week. Last year, the Missing Migrants Project recorded 3,771 dead or missing in the Mediterranean Sea on route to Europe.
So a journey by truck was planned. But the smugglers were notorious for swindles and more deadly deceits, so Reny’s father stayed behind in Turkey with the smugglers, ready to pay as soon as he received word that the two families had arrived safely.
Again Hanin sat in the dark, never knowing where they were or if they would make it. But on this journey she had a friend and the girls became a great comfort to each other.
“This time if we die, we die together,” Hanin said. But still she became overwhelmed by fear and sadness as she thought of her grandparents and others she left behind.
“I was terrified and overthinking. Our parents tried their best to comfort us and talk with us. I was mostly in my mother’s arms. Then one day, [the driver] just opened the door and said ok you are here, go and do whatever you want. That was it. We didn’t have anything to say to each other, even thank you because he was so rude with us.”
The girls found themselves in Sweden. This time it was Reny who struggled. She missed her father deeply and had received news that he was ill and would undergo surgery in Turkey alone.
“I felt so bad inside,” Reny said. “Everything was different. I couldn’t understand the language. I was feeling so empty…[The immigration center] was full of people smelling so bad. It was horrible.”
After a few days they were sent to a camp. Reny described their tiny room as smelly and dirty.
“Our room didn’t even have a toilet.”
The family soon moved to a second camp in Bastad. Although the room she shared with her brother and mother was small, it was clean, but still Reny struggled with her emotions.
“For 10 days I didn’t leave the room. I didn’t eat. I didn’t talk to anyone.”
The start of a new life
Reny soon settled and began making friends and attending Swedish classes with other refugee students. Seven months later, both families are still waiting for a decision to be made about their residency applications. But already the girls are enjoying their new stable lives and making plans for their futures.
With her passion for languages, Reny hopes to work as a translator. Hanin wants to study psychology.
“It’s great in Sweden! We can look up at the sky and nothing is following us. There’s no danger. Its quiet, no people screaming,” Hanin said. ”Here I can reach my dreams.”
Overall, they say the Swedes have been kind and welcoming, but things aren’t always smooth.
“There are some Swedish people that don’t want us here,” Reny said. “Cars come past the camp and they stick up their fingers or yell bad words – these are the people that have closed minds. But on the other hand, there are many good people and I’ve made a lot of friends.”
Hanin added the Swedes “have taken us all into their hearts” and have provided well for the many immigrants that continue to arrive. But religious stereotypes in the West have come as a shock.
“When people think that I am someone who would kill them, or I’m a bad person just because I’m Muslim, it makes me sad,” Hanin said.
“Everyone loves his own country. There are reasons we come here. The judgment is not good,” Reny added.
Even within the camp, it’s not always easy. Without a man in the family, Reny says she has received some harassment.
“There are some bad guys so I got hassled. Most of the women wear hijabs. As Kurdish we have a more open culture so as you can see I don’t wear one. But the camp is full of people from all over the world. Some are bad, but most are good.”
In the days following this interview, Reny’s father finally arrived in Sweden to an emotional reunion. Both families are confident they will receive their decision soon.
“When I was in Syria I felt like it’s over – everything was hopeless,” Hanin said as they reminisced about the day they emerged from the back of a truck into a very different world. “In 10 days your whole life has changed.”
Wherever they end up, the one thing the girls say they are sure of is that they will always be friends.
“We’d lived a really interesting and horrible and successful story together,” said Reny as Hanin nodded and laughed in agreement. “These days we call it an adventure. But, it was really scary. I don’t want to live it again, but it’s a memory that will never disappear.”
Syrian refugee Reny Borro, 15, in her new home in Bastad, Sweden.
Syrian refugee Hanin Atbash, 15, in her new home in Bastad, Sweden.
Hanin Atbash and Reny Borro pose together for a photo in Bastad, Sweden. The two best friends hid in the back of a truck to escape the conflict in Syria and travel to Europe to begin a new life. They now live in refugee camps in Southern Sweden awaiting their refugee application decisions.
Volunteers conduct free Swedish lessons in a camp in Bastad, Sweden.
Asylum seekers receive food at a camp in Bastad, Sweden.
Part of the Nigerian team on the bench. Sometimes the ASD Pagi football club organizes friendly games with another team composed of others migrants hosted in the same Immigration Centre.
Sometimes ASD Pagi will play other teams composed of refugees. For Orobosa Andrew, an ASD player, and Collins, a fellow refugee playing on another team, itâs a chance to reconnect.
Rooms for single men at the refugee camp in Bastad, Sweden.
Refugees awaiting asylum play football at a camp in Bastad, Sweden.
At Centro di Prima Accoglienza di Predda Niedda, Nigerian boys are playing football on the lay-by. There are almost 100 Nigerians inside this centre. Most of them have received the first negative response by the Territorial Commission. The process can be concluded with the recognition of refugee status, subsidiary protection status, or a rejection, against which the applicant may appeal.
Konate Adama, 18, is from Ivory Coast. Adama lost his parents during the Ivory Coast war (2011). He lived with his uncle, however when he decided to sell the land of the family, Adama and his brother refused and they had to escape. He left his country and in his journey crossed Burkina Faso, Niger until to Libya.
ASD Pagi home open was a tough game, mainly because the team had only been able to begin training one month before the beginning of the season.
Nigerian boys on the lay-by of the Centre. The day after, they had to play with the official football club Pagi. Sometimes the ASD Pagi football club organizes friendly games with another team composed of other migrants hosted in the same Immigration Centre.
18 year-old Yousuf Lawal and 20 year-old Victory Fgene both traveled to Italy via Libya from Nigeria. Victory's mother was killed by his father, he said. Today, he is ASD Pagi's best player.
Part of the ASD Pagi team on the bench. They played at home and lost the game. The team began training only a month before the beginning of the regional football league season.
The team's matches draw in a mix of local and refugee spectators. For many of the migrants housed at the center, waiting is a common activity as they cannot leave the center for more than two days at a time and cannot look for work until their applications for refugee or protected status are approved.
Part of the Nigerian team on the bench. Sometimes the ASD Pagi football club organizes friendly games with another team composed of others migrants hosted in the same Immigration Centre.
Asylum seekers on the field in Caniga, a suburb of Sassari, where they train and will play the championship match.
Many of the team members have traveled a long way to get here. Yusuf Lawal spent two months in transit to reach Italy.
Cinthya Collins nursing her baby during a match of Pagi's football club at the home field. Cinthya was hosted in an immigration centre in the South of Sardinia while she was pregnant and her husband Collins was living at the centre in Sassari. The baby will be born in Sassari this July and now they are living all together in Sassari. Collins is a player at Pagi's football club.
Scifo Mohamed Diallo inside the immigration centre. Scifo, 19 years-old, is from Conarky, Guinea. He lost his entire family during the stadium massacre in September 2009. The massacre was lead by military junta Captain Moussa Dadis Camara. Security forces raped, killed, and wounded protesters during a protest rally in the stadium. Scifo survived, living on the streets in Senegal fro two years until he decided to start the long journey to Libya. After two years working in Libya, he planned the journey by boat to Europe. Now, Scifo is waiting for the result of the Territorial Commission and plays in the Pagi football club.
Mousa Balde, 18 years old, from Senegal and Omar Kartu, 18 years old, from Gambia are members of the football club Asd Pagi. Mousa left his country for religious issues. All of his community is Muslim but his mother and Mousa are Christians and their lives were in danger. Like most people from Gambia, Omar has had political problems with the military government of Yahya Jammeh. His brother is in the military and did something the regime is angry with and they were no longer safe.
Mousa Balde, 18, fled Senegal because he said his family's Christian faith was not tolerated in their predominantly Muslim community. Omar Kartu, also 18, fled the Gambia when his brother, a member of the national military, ran afoul of the country's dictator Yahya Jammeh, he said.
Alhagie Amadou Jallow, 24 years old, was born in Gambia. One day, he was kidnapped by secret agents in Gambia, tortured, and accused of being part of the regime's opposition. Alhagie was kidnapped by secret agents in Gambia, tortured, and accused of being part of the regime's opposition. They had recorded a chat with a friend where he was talking about the regime. Gambiaâs president Yahya Jammeh is frequently accused of human rights abuses, extra-judicial killings, torture and the muzzling of journalists. Jallo escaped and started the long journey to Libya and later to Europe. In Sicily he was accused of being a smuggler only because he was helping to save the lives of everyone on the boat. Jallo lived for some months in a jail in Sicily and was then released and transferred to the immigration centre in Sassari. Now, Jallo is waiting for the recognition of international protection, he knows a little Italian and he is helping the coach by translating in English, French, Mandinka and Wolof for all the players.
Asylum seekers outside the entrance of the immigration centre where almost 300 refugees seeking international protection are living. Most of them come from Sub-Saharan countries like Nigeria, Gambia, Senegal, Togo and Mali.
Vincenzo, a worker in the centre, is playing with some refugees in the atrium. All of the employees are well integrated with all 300 refugees of the centre.
Frank Ugbaja, 21 years-old, from Nigeria. He lost his father and two sisters in a bomb attack by Boko Haram. Nigeria's militant Islamist group Boko Haram - which has caused havoc in Africa's most populous country through a wave of bombings, assassinations and abductions - is fighting to overthrow the government and create an Islamic state. Frank escaped and started the long journey to Libya and later to Europe.
Ranum, north of Jutland in Denmark hosts an asylum center that is home to over 400 people waiting to find out if they will be given asylum. They can stay in this center for months, or even years, depending on the Danish immigrations services in based in Copenhagen. They are far away from their home countries and from their families, searching for the promised land that they always dreamed of, but for many of them, the present looks empty. These are a few of their stories.
Abdulnaser, 16, is talented with foreign languages. After four months in Ranum, he can speak a little Danish.
He from one of many Syrian families waiting in Ranum's Asylum Center to be recognized as refugees.
"A bomb destroyed our home in Damascus," said Mohammad, a 54 year-old Palestinian from Syria. "We sold the car and everything to find money to escape as soon as possible. There was no other way to survive." Mohammed remembers everything clearly. "It was a long and dangerous journey crossing from Turkey to Greece and Italy by boat. We arrived in Denmark just with 20 dollars."
Najwa is arabic teacher, and in Syria she also worked for the United Nations. Her husband is an engineer, and one of his sons studied Engineering at the University of Damascus.
Her family waits at the Ranum Asylum Center in Denmark to be recognized as refugees.