Rockline Kwakye, from Ghana to human rights in Ravenna

I am Rockline Kwakye, a 26-year-old girl and a Ghanaian. I have lived in Italy for 7 years with my parents. I have two younger siblings: a girl and a boy. I completed my bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, International studies, and Economics in Ca’Foscari Università di Venezia in the year 2018. During my bachelor’s, I participated in the simulation of the Council of European Union legislative procedure focusing on the promotion of anti-discrimination law in EU. I intended to work for some time before continuing my education but unfortunately, I couldn’t find any good job. In the year 2020, I decided to enrol in a master’s degree program in Università di Bologna in Ravenna. I am currently studying Master’s in International Cooperation on Human Rights and Intercultural Heritage. I specialise in the Protection of Human Rights and International cooperation. I am a member of an international association called tôchi bellezza. We promote human rights and intercultural heritage through theatre performances. During summertime 2021, I had a teaching job in Ravenna with the responsibility of teaching basic Italian language to some refugees in Ravenna. Due to my education, I had to stop after summer to have a full concentration on my studies. I am currently working at the municipality of Ravenna, in the immigration office as an intern. I enjoy my experience working with immigrants and in the nearby future, it is my hope and dream to continue working with immigrants.

As a matter of fact, migration as we all know is one of the dominant topics in relation to issues of protecting human rights. As a human rights scholar, I am very passionate and concerned about the lives of people irrespective of their cultural background and this case includes migrants. It’s an honour to be given the opportunity to share my thoughts on immigration issues in this region. These people come to Europe for a greener pasture. Some come for a permanent stay while others come with the intent of gaining something valuable which will give them a better life when they go back home. Some also come for study reasons, hoping they could find a good job here after graduating or in their home country due to the quality education in Italy. We have different types of migrants here, there are some who are also considered as refugees and asylum seekers. Today, I would like to highlight three main points about migration to Italy: 

  • The bureaucratic processes of achieving stay permit
  • The treatment of migrants with language barriers
  • The possibility of improving the lives of these migrants through education.

I will start by talking about the citizenship right of foreigners born in Italy. These people are often not fully considered as members of the various countries their parents come from because their education life and every other part of their life has been developed in Italy. They think equally as the Italians, they eat what they eat, speak what they speak and go where they go. It is quite unfortunate for them to wait until they are 18 years to have the Italian passport, even though they were born as Italians in Italy. Some may say this reason is because their parents do not hold the Italian passport, but this is another problem with the bureaucratic system. Having to wait for 10 years with residence and a fix amount of what we call the “sette-trenta” gained from the last 3 years before having the possibility to get the citizenship is a bit hard for some foreigners to achieve. Not to talk about the acquisition of A2 Italian language level for the carta di soggiorno and B1 level for citizenship if the Carta di Soggiorno has not been achieved yet. The truth is many people who don’t have the Carta di Soggiorno actually wait to get the passport, hoping to escape the language exams, but the rules of attaining a B1 language level makes this impossible. Many were not fortunate to be educated in their home country and therefore find it difficult to school here. Another reason is because their family are dependent on them and their only option is to work hard to take care of their family here and abroad, the time to go to school will therefore not be in their favour but not all think this way; in fact I have had the opportunity to work with some migrants and I have found out there are some who are eager to learn the language and not just that, but also to gain good skills. 

The situation is hard for these migrants, some receive very low income for hard labour just because they are considered people from third world countries or not Italians. I believe we all know Italians were once migrants in other country so when it comes to treatment of migrants, they should be first in providing quality life for them. I am not here to mainly criticise Italy, to be fair enough, Italy has been very good as a country of migrants, but I believe there is still room for improvement. Some public offices like the post office and the Questura sometimes do not know how to treat these migrants due to language barrier. People have testified this, and I have been a victim too.  They are often intimidated for not being able to speak the language. This is an act of discrimination, and it goes against the European Charter of Human Right Art.14 of the Prohibition of discrimination which includes both race and language. 

This is why I think migrants should be given the opportunity to be educated on their rights in this country in their native language if possible. Many do not understand Italian, educating them on their rights in their language will make them enjoy more of their right to attain knowledge. What use will it be if you speak to them of their rights and they do not understand?  Another point I would like to raise is giving them skills that they can use when they go back home. Not just skills for farming or cleaning, that I believe most already have. There are many who want to be writers, nurses etc. A system should help these migrants to achieve their goals, even if it takes Italy to make a first step on this.
Some migrants abandon their dreams because of the language barrier which is not enough reason to stop them from giving out their true potential in this region and also where they come from. I always like to refer to migrants as transnational actors, because most of them look back home helping their family abroad. If a system is developed for these migrants to produce the skills they want to gain without the language barrier being an issue, the inequality level between migrants and Italians will be reduced.
About education, another point is to educate Italians about racism. Many foreigners are treated badly, a hard truth. Some are rejected for job offers due to their race or skin colour. I think it’s high time not just the youths are educated on this topic, but the elderly people who have the chance to provide opportunities for these foreigners. 

To conclude, it is my hope that this message won’t vanish into thin air but will have great ears to listen to and work upon it. Many people are moving to Italy and not everyone is happy about that, therefore the system should kindly help these migrants gain a valuable skill that can support Italy and their home countries. 

Rockline Kwakye
[Febbraio 2022]

Ghanese, vive a Ravenna. Frequenta il Master di Protezione diritti umani e cooperazione internazionale, Università di Bologna, dopo 3 anni di studi a Ca' Foscari a Venezia. Ha viaggiato in Europa, facendo anche un tirocinio a Londra presso la Beready Company e come assistente per l' ambasciata del suo Paese a Roma. E' attiva nel campo del volontariato locale.