Five thousand people took to the streets in Caserta on Saturday ahead of World Refugee Day (June 20). More than 7,000 had done the same in Naples on Friday. Both demonstrations were held under the banner of the same message: “We want peace because we know war.” And there is no peace without rights: the Migrant and Refugee Movement of Caserta and Naples, together with the NGOs active in the area, demonstrated to claim their presence among the social fabric of Campania, demanding from the institutions of the two cities to allow those fleeing conflicts in their own countries to obtain residence permits for special protection.
There were many preparatory assemblies with the local communities, including reaching out to rural workers. The Islamic community of Naples also joined the demonstrations. On June 8, Pope Francis received the representatives of the movement in an audience in Rome, agreeing with their reasons for protesting. “The war in Ukraine is giving us a dramatic scenario with millions of refugees,” explains Mimma D’Amico of Ex Canapificio di Caserta, “but they are not the only ones fleeing war. And then there are those fleeing extreme poverty, famine and persecution. Our work alongside migrants, to bring them out of illegality and exploitation, has suffered many setbacks in recent years, causing their situation to worsen dramatically. We need to escape the impossible bureaucratic paths that are throwing them back into invisibility.”
The Salvini decrees were the first blow, as even those who had histories of persecution found themselves on the list of “safe” countries and therefore excluded from the pathways granting protection; many were deprived of access to integration tools such as job placement. Then there was the pandemic: “The closed offices,” D’Amico continues, “and the impossibility of talking to anyone from the institutions, led as a consequence to the worsening of conditions for many, even for those who had been here for years.” And finally, in 2020, there was yet another “fake amnesty”: 80 percent of applications for regularization processed, 70 percent rejected, often due to requests for documents to be attached: a situation somewhere between absurd and deliberately punitive.
“Those hardest hit in the current crisis are the migrants,” explains Abdel El Mir of the Migrant and Refugee Movement of Naples, “who have continued to struggle in the midst of the lockdown, the last to have access to the vaccine and the first to lose their jobs and, as a result, their residence permits. We went back to the reception centers, where conditions remain difficult. The very long waiting times at immigration offices, the inability to be able to renew documents, often due to illegitimate requests by officials, and the situation of irregularity at the local level are the perfect conditions for blackmail and exploitation.”
On Friday and Saturday, delegations of the protesters were received by the quaestor and prefect of the two municipalities. The commitment was made to organize a joint meeting with the Department of Civil Liberties and Immigration in a week’s time so as to make the path to access regularization effective and provide residence permits to the many migrants as an instrument for human and labor recognition. “We have asked to broaden the criteria for access to special protection to ensure dignity and justice,” El Mir continues. “And for a path of socio-housing insertion that would involve communities. Field investigations report dramatic conditions, up to the point of full-fledged ghettos.” Among the organizations supporting the protests are Ex Canapificio, the Migrant and Refugee Movement, Ex Opg Je so’ pazzo, the YaBasta Nova Koinè association and the SmallAxe association.