A space between - Editorial

22 images Created 4 May 2018

One of the first men I met at the Baobab Refugees camp in Rome in April 2018 was a South Sudanese man. His eyes were young. He said his name was Steven John and that he wanted to marry me. The proposal was so innocent I followed him into his tent and spoke to him briefly in a broken English that made no sense for all he spoke was Arabic. He said his life was at a moment now in which he felt “in between success and failure.” He made it out of the hell of Libya, into the freedom of Italy, but his chances of success or failure were identical at this particular moment. He never learned to read or write back in Sudan, but he wanted to do so now, maybe trying to reach Germany and maybe becoming a lawyer there. He would not stop until then. He left three days later without saying goodbye. He wanted to reach Ventimiglia where he would attempt to cross the border with France like many other refugees before him. I spent the next three months going back to the camp for what Steve told me seemed to be the reality of everyone else around: Transitory refugees and ‘returning’ ones either waiting for a train to somewhere else or for new document to stay in Italy and find a job somewhere, but leaving in limbo in this space "between success and failure."

"Rome is the only city in Europe that does not have a center for refugees in transit," says Andrea Costa, the founder of the Baobab experience. Since the beginning back in the spring of 2015 when the Baobab was first created, he wanted to build a center to welcome refugees in the Italian capital "showing them they could be free at last" after all the have already been through.

At his fullest they Baobab counted around 300 people and 200 tents. As the mist of summer approaches the numbers usually increase to about 400. Volunteers prepare about 18 kilos of food daily and provide tents and blankets to all refugees settling there. Water jugs and freshly made salads are provided by extra volunteers of the "No Name Kitchen," a group of Spaniards who spend a month here and a month in camps in Lesbos in Greece. Other aids come from private volunteers, the Red Cross and some Christian charities.

Since 2017, the Italian government has not been giving anymore aids to the camp for it's technically an illegal settlement in a parking lot near an abandoned building that should not be occupied. Despite this, the Baobab continues to exists and thrives thanks to its volunteers and their chain of command infallible system.

The camp was dismantled in November 2018 after a presumed rape and a series of police raids. Most of the migrants are now living on the streets of Rome.

These are some of the refugees I met on my weekly visits at the Baobab in the month of April, May, June, September and October 2018.
These are their "temporary homes" and their stories of resilience in a "space between success and failure."
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