Joy, a refugee fighting against discrimination | Photo: ANSA/UNHCR
Joy, a refugee fighting against discrimination | Photo: ANSA/UNHCR

Joy is a young refugee in Italy who was the victim of superstition in Nigeria. The young woman, who now lives in Turin, was kidnapped from her home in Nigeria by men who wanted to sacrifice her because she was born with albinism.

Joy, a young refugee from Nigeria, currently lives in Turin and is telling her story as part of the project "Everyone Can Make a Difference #WithRefugees" launched on the music streaming platform Spotify in collaboration with UN Refugee Agency UNHCR.

"Hi, I'm Joy, I'm 23 years old and I was born in Nigeria, in Benin City, a community that despises diversity, that doesn't tolerate those who are born different. I was born with albinism. In short, I'm a "white black".

In Nigeria, people with albinism are discriminated against and killed for various reasons. However, albinism isn't a contagious illness but rather a genetic characteristic. My present and my past don't allow me to accept the reasoning of those who discriminate and eliminate everything they don't understand," she said.

Joy is one of five refugee voices in the campaign, promoted for World Refugee Day. "I was kidnapped because I'm albino" "I wasn't the one who decided to leave my country; I was kidnapped," Joy said in an interview with ANSA.

Kidnapped to be sacrificed

"In Nigeria, there are people who believe that sacrificing a person with albinism can bring wealth. There has always been this discrimination against people with albinism; they are considered people who bring bad luck. I think people don't understand how albinism works and what it is, so they exclude and discriminate," she said.

Due to superstition, "I was taken from my home in Nigeria, but then I managed to escape from the kidnappers and I ended up with human traffickers, men who sell women," she said.

"Those people took me to Libya and sold me to other men. I was with them for two months, together with other women, then one day they decided to let us all go". Just like so many other people, Joy came to Italy by crossing the Mediterranean and reaching Sicily.

"I stayed there for a week, and then I was transferred to Trento, where I received accommodation, and I requested asylum."

Music is a fountain that never dries up

Joy is currently in her second year of a degree program in Comparative European and International Legal Studies at the University of Trento.

"Compared to the life I had in Nigeria, here I can do what I want. If someone wants to go to university, they can do it, while in Nigeria for a person with albinism who goes far from home for university, without the protection of parents or siblings, there's always the fear of not knowing what can happen to them," she said.

Joy said she enjoys living in Italy, but "after the program for asylum seekers ends, it is economically difficult for a refugee to continue to attend university. For example, a friend of mine who is a refugee had to leave school to work. She didn't want to, but she was forced by circumstances. I would like there to be more help for refugee students," the Nigerian said.

"I began to sing after I came to Italy, in 2017, and for me music, like I also said on Spotify, is like a fountain that never dries up," Joy said. "With music you can transmit any type of emotion, even one you can't say with words."

The songs on her playlist include "Il diario degli errori" by Michele Bravi and "Fight Song" by Rachel Platten, a song that she said "reminds you to never give up because every moment of pain passes and then comes the light that brings you happiness."

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