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  1. #1!
    Data Registrazione
    05 Mar 2002
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    Predefinito Palermo:immigrati reclutati casa per casa

    Palermo, African Migrants' Reluctant Home-From-Home
    Fri January 3, 2003 08:49 AM ET
    By Luke Baker
    PALERMO, Sicily (Reuters) - In the crumbling back streets and twisting narrow alleys of old Palermo, Ousmane Abdel-Latif and his friends spend their days longing to get out.

    Like characters in "Casablanca" whiling away their days in the hope of securing exit papers for France, they bide their time holding out for a permit that will allow them to head north to look for work, even though that means leaving their new home.

    As illegal immigrants from Senegal they can't go anywhere until they've got a "permesso di soggiorno" -- a permit to stay in Italy. And until then, Palermo is the safest hide-out.

    It may not offer much in the way of money making, with unemployment already above 25 percent, but at least it's a friendly community in a place that somehow feels familiar.

    In fact, the old heart of Palermo, where baroque and arabesque buildings loom over a maze of streets, has become a true staging post for African immigrants waiting to move on.

    From Congo, Gabon, Senegal and a dozen other countries up and down Africa, hundreds of illegal immigrants arrive in Sicily every month and make their way straight for Palermo.

    They may stay weeks or maybe months -- some have never left -- but the aim of all is to get papers and head to the wealth of northern Italy, leaving Palermo's privations behind. The irony is that they find it increasingly hard to leave.

    "I'm just waiting to get out," said Abdel-Latif, a tall, soft-spoken 28-year-old, who arrived in Sicily from Senegal five months ago and is still cooling his heels here.

    "I don't mind being here, but there's no work. As soon as I get a permit, I'm going to Milan."


    The focal point for new arrivals is Albergheria, a tight neighborhood in the depths of the old city where rooms in tumble down "palazzi" can be rented cheaply and there's little chance of being discovered by the authorities.

    While the poorer natives of Palermo and immigrants from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and China also congregate in the neighborhood, the bulk of the residents are African, with more than 30 countries represented, from Angola to the former Zaire.

    The sounds of French, Lingala, Swahili and other tongues mix with Italian and the air is filled with the smell of spiced chicken, beans and rice -- not home-made pasta sauce.

    The fruit and fish market at nearby Ballaro, where Muslims from Arabia were once the main traders, is filled with young men from Burkina Faso, Ghana and Cameroon helping yellow-toothed Palermitani chop loins or mop up blood for spare change.

    At the sides of the narrow alleys lined with heavy-laden stalls, groups of young African men sit chatting and try their luck with grinning local girls in broken Italian.

    "Being Sicilians, we are very hospitable, but they are also very welcome," said Giovanni Oneri, 48, one of Ballaro's many butchers, in between drags on his cigarette.

    "Sicily has been occupied by Arabs, Africans and all sorts of other races over the centuries -- they're in our blood."


    If Albergheria and Ballaro have the feel of a medina in downtown Casablanca, the Humphrey Bogart of the neighborhood -- white tuxedo and twisted smile aside -- is Jacob Konate, a 44-year-old former lawyer from Burkina Faso.

    Konate arrived in Palermo from a town outside Ouagadougou in 1992 and has since risen to become a successful businessman and the self-described doyen of the community.

    While he has left Palermo several times he always comes back, and now owns international calling booths for away-from-home immigrants in Brussels, Naples and Palermo, as well as a restaurant and a football club.

    As the highest-profile member of the community, his job is to maintain good relations between the range of different nationalities, ethnicities and religions that make it up.

    And he also acts as a guardian to new arrivals, helping find small jobs to earn some cash, or offering a place to eat home-style food in the restaurant run by his Ivorian wife.

    To him it's perfectly natural that Palermo should have become a melting pot of Africa on the edge of Europe.

    "Africa and Sicily are one and the same thing, they have the same culture, the same way of life," he said, sitting at his office desk with two clocks on the wall behind, one showing Italian time, the other what he calls "Africa time."

    He receives letters addressed to "Monsieur Le President."

    "Here we have a very solid community, no matter where people come from or what religion they are. Everyone is united by the same desire -- to work and try to make a better life."


    Konate estimates that several thousand Africans have passed through Albergheria in the 10 years he's been around, while the permanent community has swollen to around 800.

    The growing fixed population reflects the fact that many feel better treated and more secure in Sicily than they do in the north, where racism is more common. Many go north for several months before returning to Palermo "for a break."

    But it also reflects the work of Don Baldassare Meli, without whom most would be at a complete loss.

    Meli, a Catholic priest, began working with immigrants in 1987, first helping those that arrived with health problems, then building up a reception center in his church, Santa Chiara, which now provides everything from Italian lessons to a creche and help with applying for a "permesso di soggiorno."

    Some applications are made on the basis of political asylum -- they're up sharply since civil war broke out in Ivory Coast -- while most aim to take advantage of government amnesties that provide a set number of permits for workers each year.

    But the government recently introduced tougher immigration laws and the measures have taken their toll.

    "There's constantly less space to operate in, less chance of getting people permits," said Father Meli.

    "Everyone still wants to go north, but they are having to wait longer to do it... At least here they are with friends or others from their country and the city is an Africa away from home, but they can't make money here."

    Yet while everyone wants to get out of Palermo, they seem to know they'll be back.

    Those hanging outside Santa Chiara say they'll take whatever factory job they can find once they have papers, but they'll miss the warmth and openness of Palermo.

    "I know I have to go north for money, but Palermo feels like home now," said Koffi N'Guessan, who fled Ivory Coast three months ago, leaving his wife and two children behind.

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  2. #2
    Ridendo castigo mores
    Data Registrazione
    05 Mar 2002
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    Predefinito Re: Palermo:immigrati reclutati casa per casa

    Originally posted by Dragonball

    "I know I have to go north for money, but Palermo feels like home now," .
    perche' milano no ? ...Mi sa che e' questa la vera 'unita' di italia ' di cui parlano sempre ...

  3. #3
    piemonteis downunder
    Data Registrazione
    20 Mar 2002
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    "Africa and Sicily are one and the same thing, they have the same culture, the same way of life"

    Frase da incorniciare. Da quanti anni e' che lo diciamo, e ci davano dei razzisti...



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