15 June 2018: MotM + The ICMP Partner
At The Swiss Embassy In Rome
MotM Update: Breakthroughs
On Monday, 11 June MotM partnered with the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) at their conference, “Profiles of the Missing” at the Embassy of Switzerland in Rome.
MotM interviewee, Bakary David (20, Gambia), was in attendance as a panelist to talk about living with the consequences of a missing person in his life. As David landed in Lampedusa just over one year ago, the whereabouts of his friend Mustafa (Senegal) had already become unknown. David has remained in touch with Mustafa’s family and friends in Senegal, but has never heard from him again.
David spoke with grace before an audience that included Sanji Monageng, judge of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Giancarlo Kessler, Switzerland’s ambassador to Italy, both of whom delivered opening remarks; plus others from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Human Rights Watch, and the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
I am immensely proud of David for his contribution. Just days after he stepped off the rescue boat on 15 April 2017 when we met for his first interview on Lampedusa island, it would have been impossible to imagine him in the place he occupied a few days ago.
In Lampedusa, his interview was one of the hardest. He had trouble speaking, difficulty remembering details. I questioned if he was being honest with me until he revealed he had been brutally struck in the head with the end of an AK-47. That was during his time in Libyan prison and he continues to live with the effects of the trauma. He still has trouble keeping his concentration.
I sat with him on the panel on Monday prompting him with the script he had developed in our days-long prep session, at each turn whispering a little bravo for so seamlessly delivering his lines while the world looked on.
The ICMP conference marks a major turning point.
We can see now that the work developed at MotM goes beyond simple awareness-building, to actually helping to advise public policy to better manage the migration flow in Europe. David’s story was one of three shared on Monday to a group that convened to design a multilateral initiative to confront the missing persons issue within migration.
Which is to say, as MotM winds down its final days in Rome, there is a renewed energy to work even harder for change.
Stay tuned for many more one-year reunion stories of MotM interviewees, from the southern seaside of Calabria to the mountaintops of the Alps in Lombardia, plus new profiles in the coming days and weeks.
Today, 15 June, I attend the “Migrant and Refugee Women’s Integration and Empowerment in Europe” conference in Rome, and it could not come at a better time. Just two weeks ago on a visit to a housing camp in the south I met Blessing, a 24-year-old Nigerian woman who had suffered terrible abuses in Libya, including being raped regularly by traffickers before crossing the Mediterranean.
Women are the first to be transferred from the Lampedusa hotspot. When they are on the island, they often stay inside. It is difficult to find female migrants to talk to, and harder still to communicate when you do. They are often less educated than their male counterparts, some may only use tribal dialects on account of a missing English (or French) education. They tend to be shy. They tend to think their experiences are not important. To connect with Blessing was a breakthrough: of the more than fifty MotM profiles, hers is one of only four women on the site.
At the conference held today by the Women’s Empowerment, Integration and Participation Project (WEIP), I hope more light will be shed on how to address the gender gap on MotM.
More to come!