EU Watch

The Baobab Celebrates 3 Years of Welcoming Migrants in Rome

Italy has issues dealing with migrants, but the Baobab center in Rome has been welcoming migrants and providing greatly needed services for over three years.

by Gabriela Villarejo

Where is this center located?

There is a welcome center near Tiburtina, hosting Italians without homes and migrants who have just arrived and wish to begin the asylum process, or migrants who have been rejected for other countries.

The why of its creation

The Dublin III regulation stipulates that an arriving migrant should present his or her request for international protection or asylum in the country - of Europe - where they did their first entry. In other words, when arriving by boat, Spain, Italy, Greece have quite an administrative burden in processing migrants requests and maybe even more that others non-Mediterranean countries.

Italy has issues dealing with migrants, not only due to the administrative aspect but also because there is no reception plan, or services to deal with the immigration flux. In fact, in Rome the lack of admission services for migrants led to the creation of a welcoming center three years ago called the Baobab Experience. It was created through the work of activists and voluntaries.

The Baobab experience: the start of a home

The center became a shelter, a place to have a warm meal, to get legal assistance and also sanitary assistance. The tents became synonyms of a new home, for those who have left all behind to search a better life.

The stories inside the center

There are multiples stories waiting to be shared inside the center. For example, the ASGI article shares a love story between two hosts of the center: A Moroccan man lived in Libya with his family but had to left all behind when the violent conflicts started. He later met an Italian woman, who lived in the streets, rejected from home since she was 18 years old. They found hope through each other and have remained together.

The volunteers

There are Italian volunteers but also international ones. A Spanish group of volunteers from the NGO No Name Kitchen, founded in Belgrade in 2017, came to help out in May 2018. They help with gathering food and water for the people in the center.

The uncertain future of the camp

The recent outburst of the police this past 12 July is a reminder of the “clandestinity” – meaning not foreseen by the law – of the center. They did not close it but proceed to take the persons without identifications papers to the immigration office for identification. This was done for roughly 88 out of the 350 people at the center.

The lack of a framework to welcome these vulnerable persons leaves them dependent on the goodwill of the government in power, which currently is not the most favorable towards migrants.

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