Friday, December 08, 2017

Lots of Good Wishes
I met with a new lawyer yesterday to try to resolve the Nigerian passport dilemma. My student, who is the mom of a boy in T’s class, a law professor, and a judge, was kind enough to take me to Pisa with her where she teaches at the University. Her assistant, a very polite and kind law professor named Niccolò then took me to meet this colleague of theirs who specializes in international law. I started out by asking Niccolò if the lawyer would have the obligations of a privileged relationship even though the woman in question is not his client yet. He assured me that in Italy, the privileged relationship begins from the time you walk in the door. I then felt I could freely share the whole story about how this woman had to change her name on the passport or risk being raped, and how her ability to renew her stay permit in Italy was now uncertain.

Unfortunately, the lawyer confirmed my fears. It is a practice, although not a law, that the Italian titolo di viaggio which serves as a passport for people seeking asylum who cannot get one from their countries of origin is usually only renewed three times. I don’t know why. He thought that eventually she would have to risk going back to Nigeria to get a new passport just to fulfill a bureaucratic need, even though it could have dire results for her and there are no guarantees that the embassy will even give her a new passport. It is likely they will ask for an insane amount of money to do it, if at all. He will be letting me know, hopefully within the week, if she can even renew the permesso this time around before the expiration date on her valid documents, and what if anything she can try to do in the future. It is a dismal, confusing, and unjust situation.

After the meeting, there was this nice moment where these African students were at the blackboard in the classroom where I was waiting for Brunella, solving a really complicated chart filled with mathematical equations. They were speaking what sounded like French and one of them was guiding the other in filling in the answers. Eventually a girl showed up that was friends with them and started laughing about the hard time the one guy was having deciding where in the chart to put the solutions. I got a flash of Ben Affleck and Matt Damon as Africans at Pisa University and it made me smile and feel hopeful for everybody. I mean, hopefully they will turn out better than that, but you know what I mean.

On a happier note, we celebrated Paul’s birthday today. He is 27 and still working the job we found for him as a dishwasher. He works long hours and does not get paid on time or in full, but he uses the money he does get to pay his mother’s annual rent in Nigeria. He let us know that two of his mother’s children, I think they may be half siblings of his, stole that money to come here and got here right before they started blocking refugees in Libya. The male has tuberculosis and is receiving medical treatment here. The female is also at a camp in the South of Italy. He is angry that they stole the rent money from his mother and did not listen to his pleas not to come here, but he is happy that they are even alive. His birthday wish was incredibly beautiful. You can listen for yourself, but get some tissues ready. If you can’t understand his accent, the gist is that he hopes to be able to help others this year.

We also invited this woman Donna who had been helping him out behind the scenes since last May. She is a fast talker, so I think she understood him better than he understood her; but it was nice for them to finally meet in person on this really uplifting occasion.

I feel stressed, but grateful that we’re all here. My wish is that everyone in my group gets to stay here legally and goes on to live long and happy lives. It is going to be a real nail biter at the post office and the police station in January, so stay tuned.

Plus also, Gabri is back outside the ortofrutta and things seem to be going okay for him now. Diana, his wife, has gained back some of the weight she lost; and he seems to have gotten official permission to drive a taxi within a certain zone around where he lives (as long as he paints his car taxicab-yellow.)

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