© InfoMigrants
© InfoMigrants

This picture shows Daouda, a 34-year-old Ivorian man who reached Italy on a rubber dinghy in 2009. He suffered exploitation and abuse during his trip and was employed as an illegal agricultural worker in citrus groves upon arrival. Today he works as a cultural mediator in migrant hosting centers in Rome.

''Before leaving, you think Italy is paradise, and that you will have everything, but it's not like that”, says Douda, a 34-year man from the Ivory Coast. “You start thinking that, had you known it, you would never have taken such a trip''.  However, working with other migrants in a hosting center in Italy has enabled him to convince them not to give up.

Daouda's trip began in 2008. ''I fled from the Ivory Coast because of the conflict in the country'', he told ANSAmed. ''I left my family in the country, they still live there''. He crossed Mali and Algeria and endured violence and thirst, crossing the desert until he reached Libya, where he stayed for a year in Tripoli. ''We had no rights there'', he said. ''Traffickers did whatever they wanted. They hit and threatened us and we couldn't report them to the police''.''I didn't have enough money to continue the trip so I had to wait for a year, working on a construction site''.

An arduous and difficult trip

After he had enough money, Daouda boarded a boat and reached Sicily in 2009 after a three-day crossing. After landing, he was moved to a center in Arcinazzo, near Rome, where he said he stayed for six months. ''I applied for asylum while staying there but the territorial commission rejected the application and told us we had to leave the center''.

Illegally employed in citrus groves

Through a friend in the Calabrian town of Rosarno, Daouda ended up as a worker exploited in citrus groves in December 2009. He said he was employed by illegal labor bosses for a month, working 13 hours a day, with only oranges to eat. He said he was paid a euro for each orange-filled box. ''We could never stop'', he said.

On January 7, 2010, unidentified gunmen opened fire on three agricultural workers who were coming back from work. The event sparked an uprising by migrants with violent clashes with police and some citizens of Rosarno.

''Nobody wanted us there. They hit us with sticks, some were stabbed'', he said. In order to ease tension, law enforcement officers ''transferred many migrants to centers of identification and expulsion in Bari and Crotone'', but Daouda decided not to get on a bus that would take him to the centers. ''I didn't trust the police. I decided to take a train and travelled to Rome''.

Cultural mediator to help migrants

In the Italian capital, ''I became acquainted with associations and together we created an assembly of workers from Rosarno in Rome. We started to fight for our rights and obtained documents. I obtained a residency permit for humanitarian reasons''. In 2014, ''I started working as a mediator in emergency hosting centers with the cooperatives Stand Up and Ermes''. Daouda said it is very important for him to help people there.


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