Even if the Relocation program offers migrants of eligible nationalities the possibility to be legally transferred in a European country, it often takes some time to explain this opportunity to potential applicants. Confused, scared and exhausted by the long journey, these people can be skeptical at first. That is why EASO experts’ job in the Italian arriving centres, hotspots or hubs is precious and needed. And thanks to their commitment, many positive results are achieved.
Between all the different realities that an EASO expert can experience, the daily work of a Roving Team member is without any doubt one of the most particular. Not having a fix deployment, travelling all around Italy with colleagues and getting in touch every time with peculiar local situations is certainly very enriching, but can be challenging as well, even for the most trained and qualified experts.
Luca, a Maltese, is one of them. With a big smile fixed on his face, he transmits good vibes from the first minute you spend with him. When he starts talking, his words present all his dedication and expertise. During his carrier, he has witnessed many difficult cases, faced number of touching situations and met plenty of enriching people.
Luca and his EASO Spanish colleague in Sardinia.
He recounts that despite meeting so many different people, one person in particular struck his chords and got “archived in his memory folder”. A “skinny frail lady”, named Nethanet*, an Eritrean nurse in her twenties, challenged him with her determination and stubbornness. In fact, he still recalls that the first time they met, things did not go so smoothly. Luca and two other experts - Maria, Spanish, and Raffaele, an Italian, had arrived in Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia, to help Italian authorities deal with a large group of migrants that had just arrived on the Island. The migrants were all very upset and scared, they needed to be reassured that Sardinia was actually part of Italy and of Europe.
As members of the Roving Team, the three EASO colleagues were deployed in supporting measures focused on Information provision and Registration. Their tasks consisted not only on explaining what the Relocation program is, who can apply and how it works, but also fingerprinting and registering each and every one of them under the coordination of the 'Polizia di Stato'.
During the first information session on Relocation, Luca was eloquent and informed them of all the advantages, the requirements, the important things to bring forward during the procedure. He felt “confident that a keen desire to register would follow”. After a long and laborious presentation, he took time to answer questions rising from his audience with the help of the cultural mediator. And that is when things begun to turn in a way he did not expect.
“I had been accustomed to groups of migrants coming from hotspots, previously prepped by the EASO information teams, who had already in mind to adhere to the project”. Instead, this time, he could see around him only shaking heads and hesitant looks.
Amongst the migrants, was Nethanet, who was “one of the loudest and most viscous protestors, unwilling to reason and as stubborn as a mule”. She was visibly angry, and frustrated. Luca could only imagine what she had experienced back in her country, what she had suffered and bore, how scared she was to find herself in that position again. But what could he possibly do to relieve her pain? Which words could he use to help her?
Luca remembers telling her, “It is ok, what happened happened. You are safe now, everything is going to be ok”. Those simple words had the effect he wished for. Her tears established trust between the two and a new friendship was born. From that moment on, Luca never stopped to try convincing Nethanet apply for Relocation.
Days turned into weeks, but progress with the girl and the other migrants was slow. At a certain point, to speed things up and push the adamant ones to register, Italian authorities decided to immediately transfer applicants who had already given their agreement to the European program. EASO experts had to finalize their mission in a little time, completing all the files and preparing to leave Cagliari on the rush.
In the general confusion and overwhelmed by work, Luca tried a last attempt to make Nethanet register but she was “still carrying that heavy gray blanket of doubt and distrust”. Her future thus was far from certain.
The future of the other registered migrants, on the contrary, begun to be clear: they were taken to the port to be transferred to Rome, and from there they would move to the destined countries.
“In that moment, my colleagues and I felt a mix of emotions. A sense of joy, relief, stress, frustration, and these emotions all rose to the surface. Smiles were met with tears and tears were met with smiles”. It had been like this everytime that the Roving team left a center.
But in this particular occasion, Luca had one more reason to rejoice: “one of our interpreters had approached me with a big smile on her face. She had recounted that Nethanet had gone to the Office the night before the group left, minutes before they were taking the last pieces of information and had asked to be registered. ”
Luca’s perseverance and commitment had paid him back as the headstrong Eritrean was transferred to Finland, the Member State she wished for. The three colleagues from EASO Roving team could add another set of new successful cases on the list of the European Relocation program.
* Names have been changed to protect the identity of the person