Cinema: Nìguri, stories of asylum seekers in migrants'centre

11 January, 18:14

(ANSAmed) - ROME, JANUARY - Between the African coasts, orange-picking in Rosarno and organised crime, there is S. Anna, a town with a few hundred inhabitants in the Crotone province.

It is here that Italy's largest centre for asylum seekers is located, and it is also the birthplace of Antonio Martino, the director of ''Nìguri'', a documentary on the conflict between migrants and residents which was screened today in Rome as part of the Doc Africa-Italia film festival. ''Three years ago,'' Martino told ANSAmed, ''I wanted to make a film in Libya on immigration. In the end, though, I changed my mind: daily phone calls from my mother telling me about the explosive situation in S. Anna convinced me to film there instead.'' The centre for migrants has a total of 1,500 places available, most of which are reserved for asylum seekers waiting to go before a commission which will decide whether or not they have the right to be considered refugees.

''Until 2007,'' Martino said, ''the camp was closed, a sort of lager. The problems began when the migrants were allowed to spend the days outside. S. Anna's inhabitants suddenly, unexpectedly, came face to face with globalisation, through the faces of these people. They were in no way prepared or assisted in the discovery of this different reality. Until two years ago there wasn't even internet in S. Anna.'' The emergency situation has two sides to it. One is the unease felt by the residents, while the other is the vulnerability of the migrants, especially women (but not only).

''In the streets of S. Anna, where sex has always been a taboo, you can easily run into half-naked Nigerians who sell their bodies. This is a violation of behavioral codes that the town's citizens are not comfortable with at all.'' What's more, ''an asylum seeker who does not meet the commission's requirements becomes an unskilled worker for organised crime groups or ends up picking oranges in Rosarno or tomatoes in Puglia.'' This is another source of friction with the local population. ''Immigrants lower labour costs drastically. And Italian workers end up having to adapt to the new standards as well. In Calabria it doesn't take much to recruit agricultural workers illegally for very low wages...''. (ANSAmed).

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