In the last two years, a massive intervention on immigration had profoundly changed the rules for the reception of asylum seekers, those regarding rescue at sea, citizenship and asylum in Italy.

Migrants were deprived of humanitarian protection and several accommodation centers were closed, leaving thousands of people with regular residence permits, with no choice but to find makeshift solutions and live on the streets. Following the emergency linked to the spread of the coronavirus, Italy has started living its worst nightmare since World War II. A large number of individual liberties have been limited to safeguard the health of the country and many people could not understand why migrants and homeless were always around, while the rest of the population was forced to stay at home. In the city of Rome, where about 8,000 homeless people live, the most vulnerable are particularly exposed to the risk of infection. The institutions are not doing much to help this disadvantaged segment of the population. Only charities, NGOs and a few associations are taking care of them, giving information about the Covid-19 virus and the importance of social distancing, providing them with masks, hand sanitizer, self-certifications, food and blankets. The people I have met so far, who are the subjects of the work that I’m currently realizing thanks to the support of the National Geographic Society’s Emergency Fund for Journalists, arrived in Italy after long journeys fleeing from areas of conflict and difficult countries. Most of them now face the global pandemic amid rising anti-immigrant sentiment. At the same time, many Italians who were at risk of poverty before the pandemic outbreak, have been left with no alternative but to end up in the street making raise also the number of Italian homeless. According to a first investigation conducted on 70 diocesan Caritas offices throughout Italy, the numbers of people who turn to the listening centers and services increased on average by 114% compared to the pre-Coronavirus period. During this time, social differences matter even more and are indeed magnified. Some people have obtained housing autonomy through job placement, but these are a minority. If no alternative housing is provided, every time that evictions of makeshift shelters and settlements are carried out by law enforcement officers, asylum seekers and migrants are put in life and health threatening situations. After the closure of the accommodation center in Castelnuovo di Porto, 24-year-old Somali refugee Mouna Alì had no place to go and she was hosted at the home of an Italian citizen for 6 months. Then she found a job and now lives and works as caregiver with a disable woman in the center of Rome. Mouna is studying and working at the same time and she hopes to obtain a permanent residence permit, in order to start a career as a video-maker and interpreter. Like her, thousands of people are waiting to regularize their documents to start living a normal life. The local fight for civil rights carried out by the community of migrants together with various associations and trade unions, underline the need to overcome the shameful treatment of migration as a constant emergency that produce inequality and suffering. In October 2020, Italy’s government has finally revised the “security decree”, softening the anti-immigration policies and making some progress towards respect for human rights with the reintroduction of the “humanitarian protection” for asylum seekers, but much remains to be done. Many people felt the shameful side of “welcome to Italy” on their skin: the other way to die for Covid, little by little, forgotten onshore and offshore. We are all in the same storm, but not on the same boat.

NOT ON THE SAME BOAT (2020)