ROME, OCTOBER 29 – The National Italian Network for Refugees and Exiled (UNIRE) was launched on October 26 in Rome, counting 50 members from ten regions of Italy. The initiative started two years ago, when seven refugees met during a series of encounters organized by UNHCR. Las summer UNIRE organized informal presentations and focus group discussions in Parma, Rome, Palermo, Catania, and Turin, to introduce their network and gather inputs from local refugee communities.
UNIRE is the first network in Italy to be run entirely by refugees: “It is always others that represent us, the image of the refugee stops at their arrival by sea, at the numbers. And it’s always a negative image. But we want to go beyond and tell our stories,” said the president Syed Hasnain, Afghan refugee now resident in Rome, to the news magazine Vita.
The purpose is to create a shared platform where Italian refugee led associations and single activists can be strengthened and supported: “The ultimate goal is that of returning to refugees their protagonism, self-representation and self-narration,” explained Hasnain.
UNIRE is unique because -other than being the first of its kind in Italy- its members are of various nationalities, unlike other refugees associations which are the expression of individual communities. The vice-president, Ozlem Önde, is a kurdish refugee from Turkey who now lives in Milan. There are also Lyas Laamari from Algeria, Yagoub Kibeida from Sudan, Alidad Shiri from Afghanistan. The members of UNIRE are not only refugees, they are also cooks, authors, artists, academics. In the words of Önder: “Our stories are always sad, this is logical, otherwise we wouldn’t be refugees. But we must go beyond this: our self-narration must not be limited to our testimony and doesn’t only need to evoke compassion, it also needs to shine light on our value, demonstrating how -through our active participation- we can contribute to the development of the society in which we live.” (@OnuItalia)