A little bit of Africa

19 Sep

On Saturday night our friend Diego took us to a friend’s for dinner. This friend happened to be an immigrant from Kenya. Upon entering her home she introduced us to all four of her children as well as the dog, cats and goats. The spread she had ready for us was little less than a Kenyan feast of multiple courses. Deep fried stuffed olives, mini hotdogs, quinoa salad, roasted potatoes, steak, sheep, beer and wine to name a few of the items we enjoyed. It was so fun to talk to her about everything from growing up with zebras and giraffes like we have deer in Ohio to the python that her grandmother slept with for years under the impression it was one or more of her grandchildren! The family didn’t find out for years and killed it when they did, crazy! We listened to Kenyan music and danced for hours- it was so much fun!

It was a really unique experience considering most people living in Italy are born and raised Italians. We are reminded daily of the rareness of the melting pot that is our home country. While there we discussed for the third time an issue that I had never heard of before arriving- the illegal immigration issue from Africa. To be honest, I had never even considered how close the African and Italian coasts really were. Official estimates claim more than 1,000,000 African immigrants are living in Italy today, with much higher unofficial numbers. These immigrants come from Northern Africa, specifically, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt and Algeria. With more than 2,500 illegal immigrants a week, most are attempting to enter Europe through Lampedusa and other Italian islands. Lampedusa, although technically a part of Italy is actually closer to the African coast.

This is such a huge issue for multiple reasons. First, many illegal immigrants have drowned in their attempts to cross from north Africa. Second, tensions in the EU are rising over this issue. Italy has complained that other European countries are not doing enough to help with the situation. France is simply sending them back when they cross over, as would most other countries. All the while Italy is essentially treating them like tourists and officially allowing them to stay for three months, but unofficially allowing them to stay indefinitely. Third and potentially the most serious is the reason they are fleeing in the first place. Tunisia and sub-Sahran, are in a revolution and many are afraid that nothing will change after the war. The Italian government has declared the migration a humanitarian emergency and has asked the European Union for assistance, but to date nothing has been decided upon.

Italians are truly loving and compassionate people, which is why they are allowing the (basically) refugees to stay with little/no repercussions. The flip side to this is that they are straining already tense situations with their more strict neighbors. This is a serious topic that was brought to my consciousness in a very fun atmosphere, strange but I’m very thankful for the knowledge. Our new Kenyan friend seemed hopeful with the outcome and that allows my mind some rest. One Italian shared his thoughts on the matter and they seemed so similar to the United States relationship with Mexican immmigrants I had to share them. “People are upset they’re here, but they’re working jobs we aren’t willing to and they need to be here… what can you do?”

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One Response to “A little bit of Africa”

  1. Mom September 20, 2012 at 1:34 am #

    Interesting!! To say the least!!

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