The Migrant Tour Guides Educating Italians

The Italian population today is bombarded with headlines that making them perceive migration as an alien invasion. This has stirred up feelings of hatred and fear among native Italians. However, the younger generation has begun to break the cycle by participating in tours to Italian cities where they can witness the plight of migrants firsthand.

Some migrants have used the walking tours to tell their stories, as they plead to be regarded as ”human beings” regardless of their ethnicity, nationality, race or religion. Though some progress has been registered, the huge question of how to engage the government and the older generation in this acceptance quest is still daunting to several voiceless migrants.

The ‘Migrantour’ concept started in Turin in 2010 and has since spread to nine other Italian cities, including Bologna, Naples and Florence. The tours cost an average of €12 and more than 150 guides are employed on a freelance basis.

Our walks aim at giving value to the impact that foreign communities have had on our neighbourhoods for centuries,” explains Rosina Chiurazzi, coordinator of Migrantour Turin and a guide herself. “Now more than ever, there’s a need in this country for initiatives that portray migrants as locals too, instead of pointing out their diversity,” she told Guardian.

Essediya Magboul (Moroccan) takes tourists to the Porta Palazzo market, where she shows them a bottle of laban (Middle Eastern yogurt drink) from a stall nearby, saying that “It’s a Ramadan must.” Still answering questions, she takes them to an Arab-owned bakery where samples of ghoriba (Moroccan) cookies are made. Monica (Romanian) explains to her group as she guides them around a Romanian butcher’s shop that ”When the Ceausescu regime fell, Romanians were finally free to leave the country and escape poverty.” She continued, ”Many, like my mother, landed a job in Italy as domestic workers. Having to grow up without a mother was my hardest challenge as a teenager,” adding that ”It seems absurd having to highlight it, but yes, we are human beings too.”

An Italian vocational school teacher, Roberta Combo, took part in one of the tours in an attempt to understand her foreign students. She remarked, “I wanted a chance to feel closer to them,” continuing that “These encounters help us understand the struggle of having no choice but to leave your family and country for a bigger purpose, a pain we lucky ones often don’t know.”

Flavia Monfrini, the coordinator of Migrantour Catania, says most Sicilian participants tend to be young but she hopes to engage older generations too. ”The current government is trying to brainwash us and make us think there’s an emergency we have to protect ourselves from,” adding, ”but the truth is that human mobility is, and will always be, part of our social fabric. Migration has always been the normality, especially here in Sicily.”

Whether via the media or through education, the Italian government must disseminate truthful, realistic stories about migrants in Italy which can lead to social acceptance.

Sarah Namondo