Ewa Sobczynska

Ewa Sobczynska (Transnational AIDS Prevention Among Migrant Prostitutes in Europe Project – TAMPEP, Turin): Ewa is originally from Poland. She speaks Polish, English, German, French and Spanish. She earned her B.A. at Adelphi University, NY in International Studies with a concentration in Political Science and French and also studied at Adam Mickiwicz University in Poland. At the time of her fellowship Eva was studying for a Master’s degree at the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University.

Immigration Without Integration in Italy

12 Jul

The past two weeks were quite busy and hectic at Tampep’s office. Last week for example, two out of the three computers connected to the Internet declined to cooperate with us leaving half of the office with little work to do, or rather little possibility to do any work. Unfortunately, it took more than 3 days to get the computers fixed and so in the meantime, our work was seriously impeded. In the meantime, I participated in more than three Unita di Strada and have become quite acquainted with the street work- talking to the girls has become much easier now that I feel no longer ashamed to talk to them.

The shame comes from my position of privilege – I was not born the in the third world country, in a huge, oftentimes polygamic family, where women have much lower social status, are mostly dependent on men, and have little access to education. Even though my home country, Poland, experienced communism and the following economic and social chaos – and trafficking was (and still is) a real social issue, the extent of the problem does not seem to be as big as in Nigeria.

All of the twenty, thirty women I met over the past two weeks were Nigerian – beautiful, gorgeous women that did not have as many opportunities in their lives as I did. Some are my age, younger, older – and as a woman I can truly sympathize with them. However, I cannot truly imagine their lives, nor their past, present, or the future. I still hope for the best for them, knowing at the same time that the wonderful work that Tampep does on the street help individuals, on micro-level and does not solve the source of the problem of trafficking- poverty, lack of opportunities, and gender inequality.

This brings me to wonder about the larger projects that Tampep undertakes – as a leader, a partner, or in network with other organizations and their importance. As other small NGOs, Tampep lives from a project to a project. Besides their ANTARES program (the Unita di Strada in connection with the reception and assistance to the victims of trafficking that denounced their traffickers), which is undertaken in cooperation with local authorities and has quite a stable funding, other projects mostly come up when there is an appropriate funding to apply for. However, Tampep does not have a fundraising office, not even a staff member, who specifically takes care of fundraising. This leaves the projects to be mainly determined by the available European Union funds and Tampep has been quite successful in securing some of these grants, as in case of ALNIMA.

Two weeks ago, we also started to work on another EU Commission project, INTI, that aims at establishing transnational EU networks of NGOs exchanging best practices and experiences in the field of immigration of third country nationals. Tampep’s work experience does not really lie in this area, although Tampep has worked for years on integration of migrant sex workers and victims of trafficking into the Italian society and Italian labor market through their ANTARES program. The objective of the INTI project would be therefore to exchange practices on legal assistance to the migrants, expanding therefore Tampep’s expertise in this field.

It is quite interesting to be working on the issue of integration, especially in the country where the external immigration is such a new phenomenon that integration is not always considered necessary – after all, are these migrants here to stay? In case of France of Germany, this is what happened – the guest workers of the fifties and sixties settled down, brought their families, and oftentimes created their parallel society within their host country. For country such as Italy, which until early eighties has mostly experienced only internal migration from South to North, the external migration is still something that is thought about in terms of securing their borders, turning away the boats full of hopeful illegal migrants that are coming from the across the Adriatic or Mediterranean Sea and not integration.

This translates into no official integration policy on the macro-level. On the micro-level, there are offices like Tampep, where the staff is culturally and linguistically diverse. But there are few places like that in Turin; migrants are not integrated economically and tend to do the menial jobs in factories, even with university degrees from their home countries. On the other hand, cities as culturally vibrant as Turin, attempt to bring closer the enormous diversity that the migrants bring with themselves. In the past three weeks that I have lived here, I participated in many street festivals; oftentimes these take place in areas, where many migrants live trying to reinvigorate the area and make it more attractive for the Italians to visit. Some attempted to show the diversity and entrepreneurship of the migrant community by displaying the commodities they sell in their local shops and organizing food sampling, etc. These are first steps and, it seems to me that these are activities worth continuing for the sake of the common future of all Italians.

Posted By Ewa Sobczynska

Posted Jul 12th, 2005

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