At the Frontiers with Asylum Seekers - Jenny Zammit's reflections

CLC - Migrants Ragusa Project 2015

CLC Europe [Christian Life Community] started a project where volunteers from all walks of life and age can work with migrants and asylum seekers in Ragusa. It is a project running till January and each volunteer joins for a shift of three weeks.

Once could say why did I decide to go considering we have migrants on our own island? I chose to go because it was not only a project of activism – doing something – but one of accompanying and befriending migrants in their daily life. The experience involved living in a community of ten people where we organised morning and evening meetings for prayer, reflection and discussion, we took turns to cook our meals in the evening and also some time for enjoying the evenings together.

We lived at the Jesuit Retreat House in Ragusa and the ten members of the group came from Belgium, Spain, Portugal and Malta. It was also an experience of sharing and learning what the issue of migration means to people from different countries especially those who are not on the Mediterranean.

I was working in an open centre for women and children – where husbands are either dead, their status is unknown, or they are in detention in other countries as families became separated during the journey.

Some of the women ended up in boats and in Europe not through their desired choice but because of displacement due to war. Many women would have left their country, especially Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia where instability is the rule of the day, to find work in Sudan but war broke out in Sudan so they move to Libya and again war and instability happen so the way forward is not to return to their country but to get on a boat and go to the sea and Europe.

We accompanied women in their shopping for food showing them different products, the value of money, how to shop within their budget. Some had just arrived and knew no Italian or English – so conversation lessons it was. Others wanted to learn how to cook Italian style so that if they find jobs as home helps or carers they will know the way of families in Europe, others wanted a CV so that they could give it to the parish priest and other people to help them find some paid work. The children wanted to play, learn to swim, do their summer school work in a language new to them. We worked hand in hand with the carers of the centres – all in all the migrant is alone in a new country and our presence relieved some of the loneliness, the suffering of the trauma of the journey across the deserts and the sea, the boredom of waiting for documents, and the need for human acceptance and love.

Many of the people who have left their country for some reason or another have met trauma, abuse, fear and they had to face the mighty sea. They speak of the loving hand of God which saved them and their faith strengthens ours. God almighty – to the Muslim and the Christian - is great in love not in power.

Migrants experience material poverty but the bigger poverty is the emotional upheaval they experience through this journey, the loneliness of being separated from their country, their home, their family – and their faith is alive. Is mine alive because I am comfortable, well off and safe? If I am tested will I believe that God saves me and loves me? This was the challenge to the group of volunteers and I would believe any other volunteer.

CLC as a movement is inspired by Ignatian spirituality where one of the standards is Magis which refers to the philosophy of doing more, for Christ, and therefore doing more for others. One way of doing more for the migrant is to love and befriend and this project proposes exactly that. For this reason it is open to all so maybe if we have known love we can pass it on.

If anyone is interested in information about CLC or in joining this project write to info -at- clcmalta -dot- org

Jenny Zammit