Nightmares are usually built in the brain through anecdotes poorly accommodated in memory.
Rajib Bayati's, a 27-year-old Bangladeshi, is shaped like a
Electric, that kind of motorcycle with pedals that serves as a taxi on the streets of India or Bangladesh, where he lived in 2018. Rajib decided to buy one and asked the owner to pay for it in installments.
The sequence that follows is as fast as it is absurd.
The artifact was stolen, he could not return that sum, the owner threatened to kill him and he decided to put land in the middle.
Dubai, Egypt and then Libya.
And there, in North Africa, he had to find a job, stay for a while and earn enough to pay for a trip to Europe.
But instead, a man kidnapped him from the street, locked him in a room with no windows or electricity, and tortured him for a year to get his family's phone number and hold them for ransom.
That's how it works almost always.
He ate and drank three times a week.
He relieved himself in the same room where he lived and endured brutal beatings and torture.
But she was silent.
And one day, without warning, they bandaged him up, put him in a car and left him on a street in Tripoli, a practically disabled person.
The long journey of a migrant to Europe, in most cases, has only just begun when they reach their destination.
Torture, rape, beatings, genital mutilation (30% of the women who come to the center), the loss of loved ones... They are the embryo of a mental storm that plays like a game of mirrors when the end is reached. point marked on the map.
Right there begins a stormy journey made of trauma, paranoia and a wide range of psychiatric disorders that are almost never answered.
A place in Rome, very close to Termini station, the chaotic epicenter of the misadventures of migrants recently arrived in the Italian capital, has been quietly dealing with this crucial issue since 2008. And the stories heard by psychiatrists and psychologists from samifo,
Rajib Bayati, a migrant from Bangladesh, in the Samifo trauma unit. Antonio Masiello
Rajib's story, reduced after that trip to a trembling mass of bones and in excruciating pain for life, continued after Tripoli.
A compatriot picked him up on the street when he saw him in pieces.
He took him home and kept him doing housework until he raised the money to pay a smuggler who put him on a wooden boat with 83 other people.
Another 25 hours of travel.
Then Sicily and Rome.
And a mental journey that he still keeps awake when he closes his eyes at night.
That's where the tremors and
that transports him to that dark room where he was tortured three years ago.
“Sometimes I still don't know where I am.
I lose my train of thought.
And I often think about committing suicide, ”he explains, sitting in a chair at the Samifo center with trembling hands.
Giancarlo Santone, director of the center and therapist who treated him, shows the injury report that he drew up at the time.
A savage inventory of torture and brutality incompatible with a life without psychiatric treatment.
Today is better.
But not enough.
"I would never have come if I had known what was in store for me."
Samifo, which in 2021 alone served 2,124 people, is the only public space of its kind in Italy.
It was born from a collaboration between public health and the Astalli center for assistance to Jesuit migrants and has about 50 employees: primary care doctors, psychiatrists and about 30 mediators who speak almost all the languages of the countries of origin of the migrants.
Santone devised this project when Italy was only receiving about 10,000 migrants a year (in 2016, arrivals by sea reached a peak of 186,000 people, according to the Ministry of the Interior).
A period in which migration was not yet the electoral battlehorse of the right and initiatives of this type could be considered with public money.
Giancarlo Santone, director of the Samifo center. Antonio Masiello
The phenomenon was then a political reflection of what was happening in each country.
Of the revolutions unleashed from the one in Tunisia, in 2011, or the massacre in the Guinea-Conakry stadium, in 2009;
or the civil war in the Ivory Coast, in 2010 and 2011. Even the persecutions of the dictator Faure Gnassingbé in Togo.
“We were pretty far ahead of what would happen.
When Samifo was born the numbers were low, but we had a vision of something that would happen.
There was a very difficult time in 2010 in the government of Silvio Berlusconi and Umberto Bossi who wanted to force doctors to call the police when we treat someone without papers.
We made protests of all kinds, ”he recalls.
The migration that passes through Italy, one of the main doors to Europe for those fleeing from African and Asian countries, has been radically transformed in the last two decades.
Libya was then a stable state.
“It was like African Switzerland.
Many migrants went there to work without the idea of using the place as a bridge to Europe”, recalls Santone.
Most of the arrivals then took place by plane accompanied by some local Catholic or union organizations that tried to help migrants with false passports, recalls Santone.
“They accompanied them to Termini station.
They told them that they were going to look for some food and they disappeared.
There was nothing more they could do for them."
But as travel became more complicated and it became more difficult to arrive by plane (at least 26 have died since 2013.
The case of Jane, for example, a 36-year-old Ugandan, is that of a life uprooted by love.
Her husband—and father of her daughter—caught her one day in her bed with her lover.
He gave her a brutal beating and she took refuge with the police.
The problem is that homosexuality is a crime in Uganda.
In fact, this week Parliament has unanimously approved that prison sentences be applied even for those who declare themselves gay and obliges family members who are aware of cases in their environment to report it.
Jane had to pack her bags and catch a plane with a stopover in Ethiopia and Rome to get to Spain.
But there was a problem, and she stayed in Italy.
“A friend helped me with everything.
If she had continued in my country, they would have killed me.
I can never go back."
Her daughter is still in Uganda.
A user from the Samifo center, this Friday in one of the consultations.
The traumas that mark migrants, as explained by expert psychiatrist Emilio Vercillo, do not always come from specific moments of violence.
“Many have developed post-traumatic disorder just from the sea voyage itself.
For an African, the sea can be the place of hell in his mythology.
The place where the demons live.
And the mere fact of having had a rough sea traumatizes them.
Even if nothing happened to them.
They may develop symptoms that complicate integration.
They may have difficulty learning the language or narrating what happened to the commission that has to grant the asylum permit.
Memory fails, you have
and daytime and nighttime nightmares.
You isolate yourself, you are afraid of everyone, you do not feel safe and you have behavioral disorders.
And that can become chronic and delay any process”.
Maryam Barak, 26-year-old Afghan refugee.
Vercillo, who spent hours with the migrants, would come home and draw in charcoal the faces stuck in his memory.
They are portraits of moments and looks that reflect an instant, like the one that changed their lives.
That of Maryam Barak, a 26-year-old Afghan, for example, was that of a decision made in a few seconds when the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan.
“We thought that they would not return in the same way.
That they would have another aspect, another strategy.
That it wouldn't be like the other time, ”she recalls as she adjusts her scarf.
But on August 15, 2021, they understood that there was no way out and they began to plan their escape.
After several attempts, by chance, without suitcases and with her sister nine months pregnant, they left.
“We got out of the car to buy a drink.
My father and brother-in-law stayed in the car.
By chance we found a British soldier and an access to the airport that was not closed.
We decided to leave.
We left them in Afghanistan."
Maryam and her sister managed to escape.
But they arrived traumatized by having left the family in Kabul.
Santone shows a video of the first day that she appeared at the Samifo.
In the picture, Maryam from two years ago explains her story until she breaks down and she breaks down in tears when she mentions her father.
She now picks up the phone and smiles.
Today she lives in Rome with her father and her brother-in-law.
And the traumas have become just accommodated memories.
It is not usual.
Two portraits of patients from a trauma unit in Samifo drawn by the psychiatrist Emilio Vercillo. Antonio Masiello
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